Industrial action - your legal right to prevent disruption
Sometimes, when members of a trade union take industrial action, the availability of goods and services becomes disrupted. Find out if you have the right to prevent any disruption to the delivery of goods or services you normally receive.
Your right to prevent disruption
You have the right to try to prevent or stop industrial action if the industrial action is, or is likely to be, unlawful and either:
- is likely to prevent or has prevented you from receiving goods or services
- is likely to reduce or has reduced the quality of the goods or services you get
This is called the ‘citizens right to prevent disruption’.
Unlawful industrial action is industrial action that has broken the law. This could happen several ways, for example, if a trade union doesn’t hold a ballot when arranging industrial action.
The right to prevent disruption only applies to individuals (‘citizens’) and not to corporate bodies, such as companies. It works by giving individuals the power to apply to the courts.
If the courts decide that your claim is right, they can:
- order whoever is organising the industrial action (for example, the trade union) to stop
- order those taking the industrial action to stop taking it
An order of this kind is called an ‘injunction’.
Getting an injunction
If you want to stop or prevent industrial action, you need to apply to a court for an injunction. Before doing this, you should think about getting legal advice.
If you apply to a court for an injunction, you will need to be able to show that the industrial action is likely to be unlawful and that either:
- the supply of goods or services to you has been, or is likely to be, stopped or delayed by workers taking industrial action
- the quality of goods or services supplied to you has been, or is likely to be, worse because of the industrial action
You do not have to show the courts that:
- you have a contract to receive the goods or services
- you have tried to minimise the disruption (for example, by finding a different company to supply you)
- the goods or services will be completely unavailable
- the organiser of the industrial action intended to leave you without goods or services
You do not have to wait until you have been left without goods or services. If you expect disruption will be caused, you can act to try to make sure it does not happen.