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Picketing is attendance by workers outside a place of work during a strike . An assembly of a large number of pickets is sometimes called "mass picketing". The phrase "flying picket" describes groups of mobile pickets who move between different places of work. As the physical manifestation of industrial conflict, picketing not only features in the wider pattern of immunities from tortious liabilities but also raises the question of public order, involving control by the police and criminal offences.

TULRCA provides that it is lawful for a person in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute to attend at or near his own place of work for the purpose only of peacefully obtaining or communicating information or peacefully persuading any person to work or abstain from working. The right also covers trade union officials who accompany member pickets whom they represent. The right is a right in form only as it provides immunities from a narrow range of tortious liabilities and very minor criminal offences.

Attendance which is not within the statutory definition (either because it is at the wrong place or for purposes beyond persuasion in a trade dispute ) involves loss of immunities in respect of both tortious and criminal liabilities. The government has issued a Code of Practice on Picketing, revised in 1992, which is, if relevant, taken into account in court proceedings. The Code recommends that normally the maximum number of pickets should be six, a guideline which has been incorporated in the terms of injunctions and in police control over picketing. See Public Order Act 1986 .

Secondary Picketing: Secondary picketing is picketing which is unconnected with a trade dispute at the picketed premises. However, the legal restriction affects not only secondary but also much "primary" picketing directed against the employer in dispute: pickets lose statutory immunity from tortious liabilities if they picket at any venue other than their own place of work. Picketing which is undertaken other than by workers in dispute at their own place of work is secondary picketing (although provided their attendance is otherwise lawful pickets may retain the protection of the immunities if they interfere with the contract of employment of a worker employed by another employer - e.g. a driver employed by a customer - technically defined as secondary action). TULRCA thus outlaws picketing of employers other than the employer in dispute, and also picketing of the employer in dispute other than at the place of work of the workers in dispute. Picketing of head office or other plants of the same company by workers from a plant in dispute would be secondary picketing and the employer could seek an injunction to stop it. See secondary action .

Please note: the European industrial relations glossaries were compiled between 1991 and 2003 and are not updated. For current material see the European industrial relations dictionary.

Page last updated: 14 August, 2009