Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Posted on April 24th, 2023

As a nation, we have seen strikes in many areas of public life. Initially the government started by producing a bill to address strikes in the transport sector, but as the cost of living crisis has impacted wider society, with strikes in many different sectors, the government set about widening the scope of its proposals with the current bill covering other aspects of public services.

Relevant services to which minimum service levels would potentially apply are in the health, education, fire and rescue, transport, border security and decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel sectors.

The government seeks to amend some of its powers to give it the ability to set out minimum service levels for strikes in certain service areas. The rationale for the new powers has been described in government press releases as ensuring ‘striking workers don’t put the public’s lives at risk and prevent people getting to work, accessing healthcare, and safely going about their daily lives’. The press release can be found here.

Weaken employment rights

Union and wider responses to the bill, including from academics, have unsurprisingly been negative with the measures being described as ‘draconian’ and a ‘power grab’. There is a concern it will weaken basic employment rights and undermine the basic right to strike.

In addition to the minimum service level requirement, the government also proposes to reduce the legal protections afforded to workers such as the automatic unfair dismissal protection given to workers who are dismissed for taking part in industrial action.

It remains to be seen where this will finally end and what the final impact will be for workers. We will continue to keep an eye on the bill given its potential impact within the education sector.

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