In response to the railway and NHS disputes in the United Kingdom, the government brought new primary legislation before parliament on 10 January 2023 which would enforce the unilateral imposition of Minimum Service Levels on railway workers, ambulance workers, and fire service workers, with provisions for the laws to extend to any services within the transport, healthcare, border force, education, nuclear decommissioning and storage, and fire and rescue sectors.
Under the proposed new laws, workers required to cross picket lines to run minimum services lose their legal protection from unfair dismissal if they continue to take strike action, and trade unions can face paying damages for not ensuring that work notices are followed.
There was no consultation with trade unions before the introduction of this legislation, and there is little opportunity to scrutinise or influence the legislation, as it is being rushed through Parliament on a curtailed timetable.
The draft legislation is another attack on the fundamental right to strike for workers in the UK, which already lacks constitutional safeguards and takes place in a draconian legislative environment for trade unions. Britain’s anti-union laws require a two-week notice period before the initiation of a strike. They also require an excessive majority of union members to vote for the strike action, both in terms of voter turnout and in terms of ‘yes’ votes. Additionally, in July 2022, the law was changed to allow the recruitment of agency labour to break strikes, a practice which was previously illegal.