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Employment Relations Act 1999

Ballots for industrial action : period of effectiveness

144.Section 233 of the 1992 Act provides that industrial action does not have the support of a ballot unless it is called by a “specified person” and meets certain other conditions. One of these is that action to which the call relates must take place before the ballot ceases to be effective in accordance with section 234 of the 1992 Act. Section 234(1) provides that, in ordinary cases, ballots cease to be effective at the end of the period of four weeks beginning with the date of the ballot. Section 246 of the 1992 Act provides that where votes are cast on more than one day the “date of ballot” is the last of those days.

145.Paragraph 10 provides for this period to be lengthened by up to a maximum of four more weeks if both the union and the employer agree to an extension. The purpose of the amendment is to avoid circumstances where a union feels obliged to organise industrial action within the four week period before a ballot becomes ineffective, even though the parties consider a settlement might be achieved by further negotiation.

146.Where the ballot has included the workers of two or more employers, the option of agreeing an extension is to operate separately in relation to each employer. So, if a ballot involves the workers of two employers (employer A and employer B) and employer A agrees an extension but employer B does not, the extension would apply only in respect of A’s workers and not B’s.

147.Subsections (2) to (6) of section 234, which deal with the particular case where a court has lifted an injunction prohibiting a union from calling industrial action, are unaffected.

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