Guide to picket lines

Created on: 15 Jun 2022

Picket lines (or ‘picketing’) are an effective way of raising awareness of the dispute and help persuade other members to take part in industrial action.

Generally, picket lines are groups of workers and are usually placed at entrances to workplace ahead of the start of the working day.

  • Make sure you start your picket early before the start of the working day. It’s helpful to create a picket rota so that you can cover your time efficiently throughout the day and to commit your colleagues to showing up.

  • Make it an event: music, breakfast, food, flags, banners, singing, and dancing are all great ways to create a sociable and welcoming atmosphere.

  • Talk to passing members of the public about the dispute and raise awareness about the issues you are experiencing at work.

  • Take pictures and share them on Twitter and Facebook – remember the #StopFaculties hashtag.

  • There may be some EIS members who decide to cross the picket line. It is their choice to do so and you shouldn’t be seen to intimidate or harass them. Don’t be disheartened and remember it’s not just about today, it’s about convincing them to join the strike next time.

  • You might have more than one union in your workplace and many people have been in the difficult position where one union is on strike and the other isn’t. This isn’t easy to resolve and you can’t count on any official protection if you have not been balloted by your union.

  • Non-EIS colleagues who haven’t been balloted could visit the picket line and agree to walk into school together. This shows support and gives people time to talk about the dispute. They could come out at lunchtime to show support or workers could organise a lunchtime picnic together. Anything that builds togetherness helps to build the strength of your collective.


Legal considerations

There are legal considerations that need to be considered in relation to picketing. Your union officials will usually support you to meet these requirements ahead of a picket.

If the picketing has been organised by a trade union, or if the union has encouraged members to take part in the picketing there are additional requirements which must be satisfied for a picket to be lawful:

(a) A picket supervisor must be appointed to supervise the picketing.

(b) The picket supervisor must be an official or member of the union who is familiar with the Code of Practice on Picketing.

(c) The union or picket supervisor must take reasonable steps to tell the police:

The picket supervisor’s name;

(ii) Where the picketing will take place; and

(iii) How to contact the picket supervisor.

(d) The union must provide the picket supervisor with a letter confirming that the picketing is approved by the union, and this letter must be shown to any person acting on behalf of the employer as soon as reasonably practicable after being asked to see it.

(e) While the picketing is taking place, the picket supervisor must be present where it is taking place, or readily contactable by the union and the police, and able to attend at short notice.

(f) The picket supervisor must wear something to identify themselves.

In these circumstances, the definition of picketing is attendance at or near a place of work, in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute, for the purpose of either:

(a) Obtaining or communicating information, or

(b) Persuading any person to work or abstain from working.

Among other matters, it is a criminal offence for pickets (as for others):

(a) to use threatening behaviour, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour within the sight or hearing of any person – whether a worker seeking to cross a picket line, an employer, an ordinary member of the public, or the police – likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress by such conduct;

(b) to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards any person with intent to cause fear of violence or to provoke violence;

(c) to use or threaten unlawful violence;

(d) to obstruct the highway or the entrance to premises or to seek physically to bar the passage of vehicles or persons by lying down in the road, linking arms across or circling in the road, or jostling or physically restraining those entering or leaving the premises;

(e) to be in possession of an offensive weapon;

(f) intentionally or recklessly to damage property;

(g) to engage in violent, disorderly or unruly behaviour or to take any action which is likely to lead to a breach of the peace;

(h) to obstruct a police officer in the execution of their duty.


Code of Practice on Picketing