More laws to prevent strikes proposed

The Government has introduced the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill as a means to ensure that a certain level of service remains in place during strikes within the transport industry (including on trains, buses and tubes). It will allow passengers to go to work, attend school and maintain essential public services, like medical appointments. The Department for Transport has also said it will enable businesses to continue to grow the economy.  

The new law, once passed, is also expected to prevent businesses and passengers from being unfairly affected by events outside of their control, following the decisions of striking workers and unions. 

The intention of the legislation is that employers and unions agree a minimum service level, which must be met for a strike to go ahead. The agreed minimum service level would be in place for an initial three-month period, then subject to review or extension, depending on what was set by the union and employer. If a minimum level couldn’t be agreed, an independent arbitrator – the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) – will determine the minimum number of services. 

New proposed legislation includes provisions which state a minimum service level must be in place during transport strikes; if this is not delivered, the unions will lose legal protections from damages. It also states that employers will specify the workforce required to meet an adequate service level during strikes and unions must take reasonable steps to ensure an appropriate number or specified workers still work on strike days. Workers who still take strike action, and don’t follow the minimum service rules, will lose their protection from automatic unfair dismissal.  

Secondary legislation, following appropriate consultation, will set out specific details of how minimum service levels will apply to transport services. A minimum service level will only be applied to an individual transport service once the secondary legislation has been agreed by Parliament.  

It’s previously been suggested that the government will roll out similar legislation in all sectors, to prevent strikes having a negative impact on business and society. This could see minimum service levels set individual for each industry such as education, healthcare, postal workers and energy. 

Separate legislation has been proposed by the government to require unions to conduct a vote with members when a pay offer is made by the employer. This would mean a strike would only be allowed to proceed if a majority of union members refuse the offer. The hope is this will ensure strikes only happen if negotiations genu9inely break down and will give workers more say when settling a dispute.  

Whilst this will likely be a welcomed change for employers, as it will minimise disruption to their business operations, it’s likely there will be significant push back from trade unions, which organisations may need to manage. As such, good employee relations is more important than every, so employers should pro-actively consider ways to evaluate the attitudes and motivators of their workforce, and implement measures which directly meet their needs and expectations.  

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