The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill would introduce new requirements for workers and trade unions when engaging in strike action. If they do not comply with those regulations, trade unions would face losing legal protections against being sued. Similarly, employees would lose protections against unfair dismissal for taking part in industrial action.
The areas intended to be covered by regulations made under the bill’s provisions are:
- health services
- fire and rescue services
- education services
- transport services
- decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel
- border security
These match the definition of “important public services” introduced by the Trade Unions Act 2016 (with some additions). The relevant regulations would be made under the affirmative procedure (thus approved by both Houses of Parliament). The bill also contains a Henry VIII power to amend other primary legislation for related purposes.
The bill follows a wave of ongoing strike action in many areas of the public sector, which has seen disputes on a scale not seen for many years.
Its provisions have come in for significant criticism from opposition parties, who have described the bill as an attack on the right to assembly and discrimination protections—as a result of the proposed changes to the legal framework on unfair dismissal—and thus also in contravention of the UK’s obligations under international law.
The government has rejected these assertions, suggesting the bill strikes a balance between protecting the right of workers to strike and ensuring that essential public services can continue to be delivered during industrial action.
This briefing examines these issues ahead of the bill’s second reading in the House of Lords on 21 February 2023.