During any period of industrial action, it is important that members share a sense of solidarity and gain strength from each other in the stand they are taking. Bringing people together in a positive atmosphere keeps members informed of developments in the dispute and creates a feeling of unity of purpose.

Having a speaker from the Union at meetings demonstrates local, regional and national support for action.

Rallies and meetings, particularly when covered by the media can help make the employers aware of the Union’s determination to progress its case.

Where more than one Union organisation is involved in conducting a dispute, bringing them together can enhance the experience of solidarity.

This document addresses issues concerned with picketing and other activities which, in addition to or in place of a picket, effectively serve the purpose of rallying members.

Rallies, Demonstrations and Lobbies

Activities which bring members together in disputes include: rallies, demonstrations and lobbies.

These activities, which may be held at or away from the work place, provide opportunities to involve others who may support the Union’s position, such as parents or other local people.

For example, there have been successful lobbies of councillors attending meetings to decide on budget cuts.

Where it is decided to organise demonstrations in public places, the police should be informed. They may place conditions and require information such as the route and the likely numbers attending.

The police are usually very co-operative, especially if they are given early notice of the intention to have a demonstration.

Activities other than publicity may be organised to take place at the workplace affected by the industrial action. These may for example be demonstrative displays of solidarity or a focus for media coverage. These can be valuable aids to promoting the Union’s position in their own right.

If activities like this are organised it is important that they are clearly distinct from picketing. Picketing is defined and dealt with at length below. Even though an activity at the workplace may not be organised as a picket, it will be legally considered a picket if it looks like one and does have the affect of persuading people not to work.

Non-picketing activities at the workplace should therefore:

  • be for a clearly defined purpose;
  • be no longer than is necessary and not intimadatory to people going to work;
  • last no longer than it is necessary to achieve the purpose; and
  • be compliant with police requirements and not cause any obstructions.


Arranging a meeting for members on strike also provides an opportunity for them members to be brought together to reinforce the reasons for the dispute. It allows for discussion on how to progress the dispute to a successful resolution. It also provides a forum for speakers to address members and provide support.

A further option is to have an open meeting which parents can attend where the Union’s position can be explained. In such circumstances it is important that this is well planned with speakers fully briefed on the dispute.


Leaflets dealing with the issues for parents to take away or distribute themselves can be helpful. It is useful to produce leaflets that explain the reasons for the dispute that can be given out during any of the above activities.

Only where permission has been granted can leaflets be distributed on school premises. Members must be aware that they can not distribute them via pupils.

Leaflets should reflect accurately the nature of the dispute. This is essential to avoid any legal challenge. Advice should be sought from the appropriate Regional/Wales Office on the text of any leaflet.


The position adopted by the Unionin relation to picketing has always been pragmatic. There have been few requests from associations and divisions for guidance on picketing. This probably reflects the attitude of members to the idea of picketing school premises. While some members express a clear desire to be involved in picketing and may positively want their place of work to be the object of a picket, others find it an activity with which they do not want to be associated. There is often a reluctance to confront pupils at the school gate and generally amongst NUT members the subject will be sensitive.

There are tactical considerations. In some circumstances the resolution of a dispute may be assisted by a picket and can create a wider feeling of solidarity. In other circumstances, however, it may make the resolution of a dispute more difficult or could result in members being less committed to the dispute and to Unionmembership.

Careful consideration of all the circumstances, therefore, needs to be undertaken in each case in which picketing may be suggested. The members affected should be fully consulted by the division before the proposal is taken further. Members should not in any way be pressurised to support the holding of a picket.

Where a picket is organised, members of other unions at the school who have not been balloted to take part in action should under no circumstances be asked to take part in the action. They should however be requested to refuse to undertake duties or responsibilities which have been declined by those participating in the action.

Divisions which are considering holding picketsshould seek advice at an early stage from the appropriate regional or Walesoffice.

Headteachers may have madearrangements for schools to be open on a day of industrial action by the Union and taken steps to ensure that all or some pupils will attend school. Where this is the case the advice given below on the legal position in relation to talking to pupils must be followed. In all cases, the safety of the pupils has overarching priority. Members will readily understand that they should do nothing that would put at risk the safety or welfare of children.

The Legal Position on picketing and the Code of Practice

“Picketing” is not an activity peculiar to industrial dispute. It is essentially a group of people assembled at a particular place with the aim of influencing the behaviour of other people. Understood in that way, picketing is subject to a wide range of laws including, for example, the laws about unlawful assembly, nuisance, harassment, assault, trespass and obstruction. All these laws apply to picketing as they apply to any other assembly of people or the activities of individuals.

Without an exception, however, the law would also prohibit picketing in the course of which people may be persuaded not to carry out the obligations of their contracts of employment. Rather than create a right to picket as such, the law gives this exemption from this rule to people whose activity constitutes a lawful picket. This exemption is subject to certain specified conditions.

Some of the conditions are rigidly laid down in an act of Parliament. Others cannot be made so precise and are therefore contained in a Code of Practice.

Compliance with the conditions contained in the Code of Practice is not, however, an absolute protection against complaints of unlawful activity because particular circumstances, for example, the need to clear the highway to give access to emergency services or security concerns, may override.

Compliance with the conditions in the Code of Practice may therefore be taken as protecting pickets against liability for “inducing” others to break their contracts in normal circumstances.

Further, while the Code of Practice offers no specific exemptions from the laws against harassment, nuisance and obstruction,there would be little purpose in making picketing lawful for one purpose if it might be prohibited under other laws.

The Code of Practice may therefore be taken at least as a guide that picketing conducted in accordance with its requirements would not be prohibited for these reasons in normal circumstances.

However, two specific legal points are particularly important in NUT pickets.

First,members will find it obvious that whilst it is lawful to seek to persuade others not to cross a picket line to carry out their employment duties, it is not lawful to try to persuade pupils or students not to go to school. Students should not be encouraged not to attend school if the school has been opened for them. A pupil or student who asks whether this is an objective of the picket should be clearly told that it is not.

Second, it is not lawful for the Union to discipline members who choose to work on a day that the Union is taking industrial action and no member making this choice should be threatened or intimidated by suggestions of Union disciplinary action.

If, following a successful ballot and after full consultation with members, the division feels that a picket may be appropriate then this should only be done in full consultation with the Action Officers. All pickets should be organised in line with these guidelines.

  1. “In contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute”

This is the crucial starting point for a lawful picket. Persuading others, in particular other members of the Union, not to fulfil their employment or other contractual obligations is not lawful and not protected against consequent liabilities unless done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute as legally defined and following a ballot of a member concerned.

The legal definition of a “trade dispute” is precise and does not necessarily extend to all complaints which teachers may feel about matters which affect their work. The Union will have to have satisfied itself that there is a trade dispute and that it has clearly identified precisely how that dispute is formulated before even a ballot is authorised. Any discussion of the nature of the Union’s complaint, such as in publicity material or negotiations with the employer, which could later be argued as suggesting that the Union’s formulation of the trade dispute is not accurate, could open the Union to legal challenge. It is therefore important that such material follows the formulation agreed by the Union.

  1. Number of Pickets at an entrance/exit

The Government’s Code of Practice on Picketing says “pickets and their organisers should ensure that in general terms the number of pickets does not exceed six at any entrance to, or exit from, a workplace; frequently a smaller number will be appropriate”. This figure is only advisory but it is likely that the courts will give effect to it.

While participating in a picket, NUT members should avoid obstructing entrances, exits or the highway.

Pickets should remain outside any part of premises which are private property unless they have received permission to enter. Otherwise they could be sued for trespass.

  1. Who can picket a workplace?

Picketing is lawful only if it is carried out peacefullyby persons attending at or near their own place of work. This is a statutory condition. The workplaces in question are those to which the persons concerned normally report on a daily basis. In the case of members who are mobile or do not report to a fixed workplace, then the administrative centres are deemed to be the relevant places of work.

The only exception to this rule concerns trade union officials, who may join a picket line at or near the places of work of members of their trade unions whom they represent. This means that local division officers and local executive members, for example, can take part in pickets at places where their members work. For more information on this, contact should be made with the relevant regional/Wales office or the Assistant Secretary – Regional Co-ordination, Local Support and Action.

It is not lawful for workers from other places of work to join the picket line and any offers of support on the picket line from outsiders must be refused.

There are in addition occasions, when other people may be present at a picket, not to take part in persuading others not to work or otherwise refuse contractual obligations but rather to show solidarity with and support for the picket. This has not in the past been challenged as making the picket unlawful.

  1. Police

It is advisable to notify the police in order to establish good relations in the event of problems arising on the picket lines. It is recommended that the division contact the appropriate police authorities, telling them where they intended to conduct pickets and asking what further information they need.

Pickets should co-operate with the police in requests they make, for example, to keep the streets free from obstruction.

There must be strict adherence to all arrangements agreed with police. These might relate to the position where the pickets should stand; expected standards of behaviour; and the showing of placards.

In particular there must be no use of loud speakers, particularly where private houses are nearby.

Should members be arrested, this should be reported to the appropriate regional or Wales offices in order that any necessary representations or complaints can be made to the police.

Witnesses to an arrest should make a note of the following details:

1.Date and Time

2.The number of police officers involved

3.The name of the member arrested

4.Any reasons given for the arrest

5.Any words exchanged between the police officer and the person arrested.

  1. Organisation of the Picket

It is important that picketing is properly organised, including details of times, rotas and members involved, and all relevant information given to those who will be taking part.

Pickets must include only members on strike for whom the workplaces being picketed are their normal places of work and the union officials who represent them (see section 3). Pickets should not be made up entirely of union officials and activists but should include members directly involved in the disputes who are not necessarily committed union activists.

In each case, a letter of authority from the Union should be obtained in advance from the regional/Wales office by the division officer who will be present to oversee the organising of the picket on the day so that it can be shown to the police or persons wishing to cross the picket line if requested.

A picket register should be kept as a record of attendance on picket duty.

Where other unions have balloted their members and are taking action on the same days, divisions should seek to agree how picketing is to be carried out and how the quota of up to six pickets at each entrance or exit is to be composed.

Each picket line should have a picket organiser, whose function is to:

  • arrange for pickets to wear armbands;
  • establish that official placardsare on display;
  • liaise with local officers/ co-ordinators;
  • liaise with the police if required.

Armbands and placards can be obtained from the Union on request, in good time, to regional/Wales offices.

  1. Identification

Pickets should wear armbands indicating they are on duty. Placards and posters should be displayed stating OFFICIAL STRIKE. These are available from regional/Wales offices.

  1. Approaching People

Any parent, work colleague or member of the public who approaches the picket line should be spoken to and the reason for the strike explained to them in a polite and courteous manner. Leaflets may be given to them if available.

While there may be discussions with members of other unions at the school about the dispute, if they have not themselves been balloted for action and called upon to take action they should not under any circumstances be asked to take part in the action.

Persons who decide to cross picket lines must not be prevented from so doing. Pickets do not have the legal right to require people to stop or to compel them to listen or to make them do what pickets ask them to do.

It is an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or display any insulting leaflets or posters or other material. Union members involved in pickets must act in accordance with the Union’s Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics.

Pickets may always take the opportunity to talk to parents and members of the public and explain the reasons for the industrial action.

  1. Permitted Secondary Picketing

There is an exception to the general rule against secondary action aimedparticularly at workers whose access to the workplace may have the effect of breaking or diluting the action. This exception, however, would in all likelihood never apply in disputes affecting teachers. This exception makes it is legally permissible in specific circumstances for pickets to seek peacefully to persuade workers who are not employed at the workplace being picketed, including, for example, drivers of delivery vehicles. Even where it does arise, such a request puts the other worker in a difficult position because his or her refusal to cross the picket line may well involve breach of contract. Only in very exceptional circumstances, would this kind of persuasion be considered as a possible objective of an NUT picket, and then only with specific authority from the officers of the Action sub-committee.

Pickets are not allowed to physically obstruct persons or vehicles.