The Government announced this week that the new laws will allow them to set a minimum level of service which must be met during strikes to ensure the safety to members of the public and their access to public services.
The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill will ensure critical public services including ambulances, fire services and transport are maintaining a minimum service during strike action. The intention is that this will reduce the risk to life and ensure the public are still able to travel to work.
The Government stated in its press release:
“The Government will first consult on minimum service levels for fire, ambulance, and rail services, recognising the severe disruption that the public faces when these services are impacted by strikes, especially the immediate risk to public safety when blue light services are disrupted.
The Government hopes 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.
The Government 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. This will, however, 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 sectors the legislation includes are:
fire and rescue services
decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel
At this stage, it is not clear what the minimum service level will be. It will be important for businesses to consult with unions as to how this will apply in practice. There are risks involved as staff that breach minimum service levels may lose employment protections. Unions will be bound to follow legislation and employers may consider injunctive relief to prevent strikes from taking place and/or pursuing damages for non-compliance.
Whilst the wider public may welcome the laws to limit the impact on potential loss of life, the Unions and strikers may view this as an attack on the power to strike and the risk is that taking these steps may not aid in resolving existing disputes.
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