UK should have introduced minimum service strike laws ‘years ago’

UK industrial action: What strikes are coming up?

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The UK is experiencing waves of strike action as public sector workers including nurses, ambulance drivers and teachers take industrial action in a stand against pay and working conditions. The UK Government is seeking to introduce a new anti-strike legislation which would ensure minimum service levels during strikes, quashing labour rights. A new poll of readers has found widespread support for the legislation.

Minimum service levels would mandate the level of staffing required during industrial action to reduce the impact of strikes on public life. The Government would set the requirements meaning workers in some sectors would have to continue service during strikes in industries including health, fire and rescue, education; transport, nuclear and border security.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps described the legislation as “a common-sense safety net to keep the public safe and ease some of the enormous anxiety that they felt over the last few months.” He told the Commons: “Failing to support this bill today means that members who oppose this legislation are essentially prepared to put the safety and welfare of their own constituents at risk.”

However, Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner slammed the Bill as one of the most “indefensible and foolish pieces of legislation to come before this House in modern times”. The Bill passed its second reading on Monday, January 16, with 309 votes to 249.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said last week: “ Unison members want the Government to focus its efforts on fixing the pay crisis and solving the legitimate disputes that have led to recent strike action. Only then will the crises in our public services start to be solved. Instead, the Government is attacking workers and making it even harder for them to win fair pay.”

In a poll that ran from 12.45pm on Wednesday, January 18, to 11.30pm on Wednesday, January 25, asked readers: “Do you support UK introducing ‘minimum service’ strike legislation?”

Overall, 1,375 readers responded with the vast majority, 80 percent (1,095 people) answering “yes” in support of minimum service legislation.

In contrast, 20 percent (272 people) said “no” the UK should not introduce such legislation, and a further eight people said they did not know.

Dozens of comments were left below the accompanying article as readers shared their thoughts on new strike laws.

A majority of readers were in favour of minimum service legislation, with username mark18984 commenting: “It’s something that should have been in place years ago.”

Username JacksonFive said: “Ban striking in critical infrastructure and critical services. Trade unions were important in the 19th and 20th centuries but are not needed today given all of the employment protections we now have.”

Another, username liamswatchereyes, wrote: “Of course. Anything to stop the unions taking advantage and inconveniencing and endangering the lives of the British public.”

And username mabel remarked: “Yes, there should be a minimum service provided for all NHS and fire services.”


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Meanwhile, username franklinsmith commented: “No strikes! Just work strictly to rule.”

Similarly, username fens was against strike action, writing: “Arbitration is the only way forward, no one should strike.”

However, other readers were in support of unions taking industrial action. Username NorthernGeezer said: “In a democracy, every individual has the right to withdraw their labour in protest! If this goes through it’s the first step towards a totalitarian state!”

Likewise, username wbr wrote: “It’s a fundamental democratic right. People fought and died to get us that right and it’s depressing seeing people now cheer for it to be taken away. Any man or woman should be allowed to withdraw their labour if they feel mistreated.”

A Tory peer has claimed the Government’s crackdown on strikes “won’t work” and should be reviewed to avoid losing votes in the House of Lords. Lord Balfe told LBC’s Nick Ferrari last week: “The legislation won’t work, which is the worst thing about it. Because how do you get minimum standards? Which children do you say will not be educated? Which ambulances do you say will not run?

He continued: “They’re barking up the wrong tree here, and the best thing they can do with that bit of legislation is to drop it because it won’t work. I don’t think the government has thought it out…they are going to lose votes in the House of Lords if they do not amend this legislation.”

Minimum service requirements are in place for striking workers in both the public and private sectors in France, Italy and Spain.

More strike days are planned in the coming weeks for rail workers, nurses, ambulance workers, teachers, university lecturers, driving examiners and border force staff.

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