UK’s strikes bill becomes law after receiving royal assent

UK’s strikes bill becomes law after receiving royal assent

Law imposes minimum levels of service during industrial action by workers in many sectors, including health and railway

By Mehmet Solmaz

BIRMINGHAM, England (AA) – The British government on Thursday received royal assent in parliament for a bill that intends to provide powers to introduce minimum levels of service during strikes across certain key sectors.

With the strikes bill, also dubbed the minimum service levels bill, the government said its intention is to mitigate the disruption of strike action to the public and ensure their safety.

The law comes amid a wave of industrial action across the public sector since last year as workers seek pay rises in the face of rising living costs.

The law will allow ministers to impose minimum levels of service during industrial action by ambulance staff, firefighters, railway workers, and those in other sectors deemed essential.

Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “This legislation is an appropriate balance between the ability to strike, and protecting lives and livelihoods. The UK remains a world leader for workers’ rights and these new laws will not prevent a union from organizing industrial action.”

Industrial action has had a strong impact on access to emergency services and the UK economy, resulting in over 600,000 rescheduled medical appointments since December 2022 and at least £1.2 billion ($1.54 billion) lost in the June 2022-23 period according to analysis by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR).

Following public consultation and approval by both Houses of Parliament, the government said it will be able to set minimum service levels within key sectors, including emergency services, border security, education, passenger rail, and the nuclear sector.

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “The ability of workers to take strike action is an integral part of industrial relations, however, this should not be at the expense of members of the public. The passing of this bill will help give passengers certainty that they will be able to make important journeys on a strike day.”

According to the bill, when minimum service levels are in force for a specified service, if the relevant trade union gives notice of strike action, employers can issue a work notice ahead of the strike to specify the workforce required to maintain necessary and safe levels of service.

“They must consult with the relevant unions on the number of persons and the work to be specified in the work notice and take their views into account before the work notice.”

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