The adoption of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill by the UK government on Tuesday, 10 January 2023, marks a watershed moment in industrial relations in the UK.
The law imposes minimum service requirements during strike action on transport as well as public services. While the legislation states that employers must consult with unions regarding minimum service, the level of service is decided by the UK business secretary. Measures contained in the legislation could lead to the termination of striking staff, denying these workers any employment protections.
The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) strongly condemns the UK parliament and government for adopting this bill and insists that it must be repealed and that similar minimum service requirements must not be adopted in other sectors.
The current wave of strikes in the UK, across transport and other sectors, is due to a lack of willingness from the government and employers to engage in good-faith negotiations with unions to solve long-lasting problems affecting workers in transport.
Key workers have been neglected for decades, and their terms and conditions have been undermined by decreasing public funding and pushing for privatisation. These are the same workers whose work was commended during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the applause was the only measure of thanks from the government. These workers are now denied adequate measures to engage in protest decisions at the workplace during a pervasive cost-of-living crisis.
ETF echoes the statements of our UK unions: this legislation serves only to criminalise and punish workers, undermine democracy at the workplace, and limit the effectiveness of all types of strike action. This bill again shows the contempt and disdain of the current UK government for workers and democracy and represents a regression for the country’s workers and human rights.
The right to strike is an inalienable right for workers. The Strikes Bill undermines the ability of workers to participate in any protest decisions that affect them at the workplace and will inevitably undermine workers’ capability and capacity to protect rights and conditions.