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Trade union bill could escalate disputes, warns man who led Government's industrial relations review

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The Government’s proposed trade union laws could escalate disputes and result in employees using more extreme tactics, according to a QC who was asked by ministers to review industrial legislation.

In November 2013 David Cameron asked Bruce Carr to examine Britain’s strike legislation.

Mr Carr, who in August 2014 abandoned his review claiming the “politicised environment” had made his job impossible, says he recognises concerns over the Trade Union Bill’s impact on the right to protest and freedom of association.

It is the first time that Carr, one of Britain’s most eminent employment law specialists, has spoken out about the Bill, which the Government has drafted in a bid to stop threats of strike action and to make the balloting process more democratic and accountable.

The Bill is now at select committee stage in the House of Lords.

In an interview with ITV News, Mr Carr warned that the bill shifts the balance of power “too much in favour of the employers” and has urged the Government to make changes.

He said he believes that plans to raise the ballot threshold, limit the period in which strike action can be taken and restrict trade union funding, combined with the possibility that employers will be allowed to bring in agency workers to replace striking workers, will force unions outside the law.

“Unions will resort to tactics which sit outside the traditional framework of ballots…and they will feel themselves driven into more of a guerrilla warfare situation,” Mr Carr said.

In a blog, Carr writes that the draft legislation contains “nothing at all” that can be seen as positive by the Trades Union Congress.

“The irony of the present bill is that if anything, it is likely to increase the use of leverage campaigns as unions seek to avoid what they see as the unfairness of a collection of measures which erode both the lawfulness and the impact of strike action,” he wrote.

The General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Frances O’Grady, welcomed the comments. He said: “The Carr Review has been used as a way to justify the biggest attack on unions in a generation. But today Mr Carr has highlighted the threat the Trade Union Bill poses to industrial relations and civil liberties.

“He rightly warns that this legislation will give too much power to employers, especially with unions being forbidden from using electronic balloting. It is becoming clearer by the day just how badly thought-through and dangerous this Bill really is.”