In 2022, most people throughout Britain were impacted in one way or another by strikes across many sectors. This trend does not seem to be slowing as we have entered 2023.
In order to address this, the Government is expected to bring forward legislation which will ensure “minimum service levels” across additional sectors – with what it says will ensure a “basic function” during industrial action. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has reportedly said that the new laws would restore the balance between the right to strike and “the right of the British public to be able to go about their lives without suffering completely undue disruption”. Whilst this is yet to be formally announced, it is expected that those who do not comply would be at risk of the employer bringing in an injunction to prevent strike action and/or seeking damages after the event if strikers and unions do not comply with their obligations.
The Government has already introduced the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill in October 2022. However, it is understood that ministers are looking at introducing legislation covering education, border security, and the health and fire services, in addition to transport.
It has also been reported that ministers are considering legislating to allow bosses to sue unions and dismiss employees if minimum service requirements are not met. Whilst it is anticipated that “minimum service levels” would be agreed between the unions and the Government, if this cannot be agreed then it is likely that the levels could ultimately be imposed by ministers. Increasing the minimum notice period for industrial action from 14 days to 28 days, increasing strike ballot thresholds and reducing the period in which unions can call a strike after a successful ballot from six months to three months, are also understood to be under consideration.
We should have further clarification surrounding this proposed new legislation in the coming weeks, and once the Bill has been considered by Parliament.
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