When workers are on strike it is likely there will be a picket line at their workplace.
The picket line is made up of
- a picket supervisor—a union rep or official who runs the picket. They wear a picket supervisor arm band. It is important you know who they are.
- six striking workers as official ‘pickets’, who can speak to workers entering the work place to ask them not to cross the line
- a group of supporters.
What do I do on a picket
- Give your name to the picket supervisor—they will be wearing an arm band. Th
- Listen to the picket supervisor—they will tell you whether you can be a picketm a supporter or whether to go home.
- If you are a picket, read the guide below to know what you can and cannot do.
- If you are a supporter, stay to wave flags, be in photos etc.
Do not speak to the media unless this is approved by the picket supervisor.
Guide for pickets
Legally, the only purposes of a picket must be to
- gather or communicate information
- peacefully persuade a person not to work.
“Peaceful picketing means that people involved in, or affected by, picketing activity can go about their business without fear of intimidation.”
Attend pickets only at your place of work.
Speak to workers going to work about the strike; if they choose to cross a picket you must let them.
Respect the decision of fellow workers.
- Harass anyone
- Force a car to stop—you can ask
- Use abusive or threatening language
- Make offensive gestures at anyone
- Carry placards with wording that may be seen as threatening
- Obstruct a road or entrance or exit to a workplace.
Any illegal act, anything that is not ‘peaceful picketing’, can lead to a court order against the union and ruin the strike.
What the union must do
Appoint a picket supervisor. The picket supervisor must be on the picket line or able to get there at short notice.
Provide the picket supervisor with an ‘approval letter’ saying the picket is approved.
The union or picket supervisor must tell the police
- the picket supervisor’s name
- where the picket will take place
- how to contact the picket supervisor.
Make sure picketing is “confined to a location, or locations, as near as practicable to the place of work.”
Reps on a picket line
The legislation covering picketing is the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, section 220—which contains an amendment (220A) brought in by section 10 of the Trade Union Act 2016.
The code of practice on picketing is essential reading that covers the practicalities of the above.
What the picket supervisor must do
Be familiar with the code of practice on picketing.
Have the approval letter on them at the picket and show this to the employer when asked. Only the employer or someone acting on their behalf is entitled to see the letter.
Wear something that identifies them as the picket supervisor.
Be present at the picket or be readily contactable by the union and police, and able to attend at short notice. One supervisor can cover multiple pickets, as long as they can get to a picket at short notice if called to do so.
Make sure picketing is peaceful—meaning those affected can go about their business without fear of intimidation.
Keep numbers in control—a maximum of 6 pickets. For supporters at the picket line, take care if the number is 20 or more, as police can move on groups of this size. It can be best to keep space between supporters and the pickets.