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trade dispute

Any dispute between workers and their own employer relating to one or more of the following: (1) terms and conditions of employment; (2) the engagement or nonengagement, suspension, or dismissal of any employee; (3) allocation of duties between employees; (4) disciplinary matters; (5) trade union membership or nonmembership; (6) facilities for trade union officials; and (7) negotiating machinery and the recognition of trade unionsí negotiating rights on behalf of employees. Under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974, a person cannot be sued in *tort for an act that is committed in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute on the grounds that it induces or threatens any breach or interference with the performance of a contract. Generally such immunity extends only to the acts of employees against their own employer. Secondary industrial action may be unlawful when it is directed against an employer who is neither a party to the dispute nor the customer or supplier of the employer in dispute (see also *picketing). Moreover, there is no immunity in respect of action taken to enforce a *closed-shop agreement.

The 1974 Act, as amended by the Employment Acts 1982 and 1988, and the Trade Union Act 1984 gives similar immunity to trade unions for their acts committed in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute provided the act concerned is authorized by a majority vote in favour of the action in a secret ballot of the unionís members. Under the Employment Act 1988 a trade union member can obtain a court order preventing industrial action being taken if it has not been authorized by a ballot. When the immunity does not apply, a union is only liable in respect of action that has been authorized or endorsed by a responsible person (which includes the principal executive committee, general secretary, president, paid officials, or committees to whom they report). The president, general secretary, or principal executive committee may repudiate such authorization or endorsement provided they act promptly and notify the person giving the authorization or endorsement in writing and without delay.

Under the 1982 Act, when a trade unionís immunity does not apply and it is ordered to pay damages (other than for causing personal injury or for breach of duty concerning the ownership control or use of property, or for *product liability under the Consumer Protection Act 1987), the amount awarded may not exceed specified limits. These range from £10,000 for a union with under 5000 members to £250,000 for a union with 100 000 or more members, and the limits may be varied by statutory instrument. Payment of damages awarded against a trade union or employersí association may not be enforced against certain protected property, including its political and pension funds and the personal assets of its trustees, members, or paid officials, as distinct from assets they hold for the unionís or associationís purposes.

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