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Trade Disputes Act 1965

The Trade Disputes Act 1965 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom on industrial relations. The principal effect was to reverse the legal position established by Rookes v Barnard in 1964. In that case, a worker who had left the workplace trade union had been sacked after the union had threatened to go on strike to enforce a closed shop. The House of Lords, acting as the highest court of appeal, held that it was unlawful intimidation.

The Trades Union Congress was concerned that the case would set a precedent for lawsuits against trade unions in a wide range of circumstances. Civil law had been one of the main tools employers used against unions in their early days until the Trade Disputes Act 1906 gave unions immunity from certain torts (including conspiracy) when taken in pursuit of an industrial dispute. [1]

As a result, the Labour government of Harold Wilson introduced legislation to restore the status quo from before the case. The Act specified that a threat to withhold one's own labour or to induce others to do the same could give no cause for action in tort. However, a case of 'intimidation' in the everyday sense (for instance, a threat of physical violence) in the course of an industrial dispute would still be unlawful for the same reasons as set out in the case.[2]

The Conservatives sought to amend the legislation to exclude the protection if the dispute was regarding the continued employment of an individual. That was intended to undermine the practice of the closed shop, the subject of the original case.



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