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Government amends strike laws

Government amends strike laws

The changes will restrict trade union strike protections where minimum service levels apply 

Business Secretary Grant Shapps has introduced the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which will amend part 5 and other provisions of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 Act.

Once in force, the new Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 will allow the government to set minimum levels of service which must be met during strikes “to ensure the safety of the public and their access to public services”.

The government said the bill will ensure crucial public services such as rail, ambulances, and fire services maintain a minimum service during industrial action, which will reduce risk to life and ensure the public can still get to work.

The sectors the legislation will impact, include:

  • health services
  • education services
  • fire and rescue services
  • transport services
  • decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel; and
  • border security.

The amendments will restrict the protection afforded by that Act to trade unions and employees in respect of strikes where provision has been made in regulations for minimum levels of service. As is the case currently, a union will lose its legal protection from damages if it does not comply with the obligations set out in the legislation.

The government will initially consult on minimum service levels for fire, ambulance, and rail services, due to the immediate risk to public safety that may be caused by strikes in these sectors.

It said it expects parties in these sectors to reach a sensible and voluntary agreement between each other on delivering a reasonable level of service when there is strike action. However, it said this will be kept under review and the bill gives the government the power to step in and set minimum service levels should that become necessary.

The government said it hoped to not have to use these powers for other sectors included in the bill, such as education, other transport services, border security, other health services and nuclear decommissioning.

Shapps said: “We do not want to have to use this legislation unless we have to, but we must ensure the safety of the British public.”

The reforms have been announced as ministers meet with trade unions to discuss public sector pay settlements for 2023 to 2024, against a background of strikes.

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