Anti-strike laws to enforce ‘minimum safety levels’: Ministers unveil plans to have unions guarantee basic functions for railways, fire and ambulances even during strikes – with employers able to sue if rules are not followed
- Laws to limit the disruptive impact of strikes will be unveiled soon
- Rishi Sunak confirmed that the anti-strike legislation is in the works yesterday
- Stikers will have to guarantee a minimum level of service in some sectors
Rishi Sunak is on a collision course with Labor and the unions today after his anti-strike laws were finally revealed.
Ministers announced that the long-awaited legislation will include ‘minimum service levels’ in key sectors such as rail, fire and ambulance.
Employers can sue unions if they prevent basic jobs from being maintained during strikes.
The government said measures recognize that ‘disruption to blue light services puts lives at risk’.
The proposals do not impose the same rules on the rest of the NHS, education, nuclear decommissioning and border security.
But there is a stark warning that could change if union leaders fail to agree on “voluntary positions” about what provision will be made during industrial action.
Company Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘We greatly value the work of our public services and we are reaching out to unions to have an honest conversation about pay, conditions and reform. Labor strikes are disruptive for everyone – from people who rely on essential services to get to work or care for their families, to hard-working entrepreneurs whose business suffers. It also costs those who strike at a time when family budgets are tight.
In addition to protecting the freedom to strike, the government must also protect life and livelihoods.
“While we hope voluntary arrangements can be made in most cases, introducing minimum levels of safety – the minimum levels of service we expect to provide – will restore balance between those who wish to strike and protect the public from disproportionate disruption.”
Rishi Sunak confirmed in a speech yesterday that the anti-strike laws are imminent. Company Secretary Grant Shapps said government must “protect life and livelihoods” as well as the right to strike
Train drivers ran away today, bringing the rail network to a standstill again
Aslef chief Mick Whelan condemned the proposed laws in interviews this morning
The measures should be tabled in parliament by the end of the month, although they are unlikely due to the current spate of industrial action.
The government faces a battle in the House of Lords, with Labor labeling the move an ‘attack on the right to strike’ and unions threatening to ask the courts to intervene.
Train drivers ran away today, bringing the rail network to a standstill again.
In his first major speech as prime minister yesterday, Sunak said that ‘people should have the right to strike’.
But he added: “That has to be balanced against the right of the British public to live their lives without being completely unnecessarily disrupted as we have seen recently.
“And that’s why I said we’ll introduce new legislation that restores that balance and critically protects people’s lives and livelihoods.”
Union barons have vowed to ‘fight’ the government over anti-strike laws and it could be months before new legislation takes full effect.
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves told BBC Radio 4’s Today program Labor would not support the move.
“The NHS relies on the goodwill of doctors and nurses and other people who work in our healthcare system,” she said.
“If you say people can’t take industrial action, to say we’re going from slapping our nurses to firing them for taking industrial action – which is what the government is now threatening – the idea that that will deliver and reduce delays for patients, that’s just for the birds.
“And that’s why Labor would be against the government going down that road.”
In his first major speech since taking the job, Mr Sunak said ‘people should have the right to strike’ but ministers push for proposals to ensure minimum services
Mr Sunak also appeared to suggest that nurses could be paid more to resolve the bitter dispute with the Royal College of Nursing.
The union has demanded a 19 percent wage increase, but was given about 4 percent for this year (2022-23).
The Prime Minister said: ‘As I said about wages, those talks should be based on what is affordable.
“I don’t think a 19 percent pay rise is affordable — I don’t think anybody thinks a 19 percent pay rise is affordable.
“But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have dialogue, shouldn’t have conversations.”
A wage review process that also decides on wage increases for 2023-24 could also be brought forward to ease tensions.
He elaborated on the process for making decisions about next year’s pay raises, saying, “We’ll be outlining more plans in this area in the coming days.”