The “anti-strike bill” aka the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill has passed its third reading in the House of Commons, and is at its 2nd reading in the House of Lords, as Government MPs have voted in favour of it. The Strikes Bill aims at ensuring minimum service levels during strikes are maintained by certain sectors such as rail, medical, fire etc.
If this were to become a law, employers would be able to give employees a “work notice” which will determine who works during a strike. However, if the employees do not comply, they could be at risk of losing their jobs with no protection from unfair dismissal. Not only are workers at risk of losing their jobs if they do not follow the “work notice” by an employer, but trade unions could also be sued if they do not ensure minimum service.
Kevin Hollinrake, business under-secretary, believes this is not a radical bill and even communicated that to the House of Commons. He says that this kind of legislation does exist in Europe and the UK is finally trying to balance and align the needs of the people with the UK workforce like many EU countries like Spain and France.
However, MP Jacob Rees-Mogg feels this bill is “badly written” despite being in support of what the bill is trying to achieve. He believes that the bill does not go into necessary details which are crucial in order to meet the bill’s goals. However, he does plan on supporting it and passing it, so it moves on to the House of Lords. He hopes the House of Lords will scrutinise it thoroughly and make the changes needed to make this a solid, well-constructed legislation.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour party, doesn’t agree with the bill and neither does she support it. She believes the government is trying to rush through the process of making this a law without addressing the problems the bill has. According to her, many employers will struggle to meet these minimum service laws because of potential labour shortages. Moreover, she firmly believes the lack of care is not because of the workers in the UK but because of the government itself.
The Government wholeheartedly believe that this new way of navigating through strikes will work as they are followed in European countries. However, in a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the general secretary of the European Public Service Union, Jan Willem Goudriaan, questioned their belief in the system. He reminded the UK Government that European Countries like Italy and Spain guarantee the right to strike as well as allow workers to negotiate the level of minimum service instead of imposing it as the UK plans on doing.
Many industries have been going on strike from time to time since late 2022, demanding their right to better working conditions, pay, jobs etc. If this bill is made into law, it will initially affect over 100,000 workers from various sectors like health, education, transport, border security etc. However, if it works, the plan is to extend this to over 4 million workers.