The Government have published its Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill which imposes restrictions against Industrial Action in the transport industry
Industrial Action. With rail, doctors and nurses strikes regularly hitting the headlines the Government has published its Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill. The Bill will impose restrictions against Industrial Action. The Bill is unpopular with the Unions and has been labelled as controversial and its form and content remain uncertain.
Background To Industrial Action
This page was first published on 6 January 2023. The last update was on 6 January 2023.
There are currently no limits in the UK to the number of employees able to take industrial action together, allowing well-organised employees to bring their employers’ operations to a halt. The Bill, which follows similar rules to those already in place in European countries such as France and Spain, could significantly alter this position.
Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill
The Bill requires employers and trade unions to take reasonable steps to enter into a ‘minimum services agreement’, which specifies the minimum service levels required for a skeleton service during Industrial Action.
Employers and unions are expected to thrash out the minimum service levels required to enable the employer’s operations to continue during Industrial Action. This requires them to consult with any regulatory or representative bodies who may have an interest.
If agreement is not reached within three months, the Central Arbitration Committee will intervene in order to determine the minimum service levels required. Such determinations are unlikely to consider the circumstances of the specific employer or trade union in determining minimum service levels, so parties are encouraged to reach agreement without intervention wherever possible.
Once either an agreement or determination has been made, the employer is able to issue a ‘work notice’ which specifies the employees who shall be required to work and maintain minimum service levels during Industrial Action. On its own, the minimum services agreement does not prevent trade unions balloting for and taking action in future, but it aims to reduce the unions’ ability to stop the operation.
The Government has indicated its intention to limit the impact of strike action on the day-to-day lives of ‘hard working people and businesses’.
Sectors Covered By The Industrial Action Bill
The Bill will ensure minimum safety levels in transport, health, education, fire, ambulance, border force and nuclear power sectors.
It will include a consideration of the minimum service level required in certain sectors to uphold public safety as it recognised “disruption to blue light services puts lives at immediate risk”.
The government is set to consult on the adequate level of coverage that will be needed in fire, ambulance and rail services, other sectors are expected to reach voluntary agreements on how to uphold minimum safety levels.
The Future Of The Bill
On 5 January, leader of the opposition Kier Starmer made his first major speech of 2023 which included a pledge to repeal anti-strike legislation introduced by the current Conservative government. So, with the polls as they are, these reforms may be of no lasting significance.
Employee Handbook Compliance Package