Petition Withdraw the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill
We want the Government to withdraw the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill. We believe this legislation would unjustifiably restrict the right of workers to withdraw their labour, which is a fundamental human right.
We are also concerned that the passage of this legislation could pave the way for "Minimum Service Levels" being imposed for teachers, refuse workers, nurses, and other workers?
We believe the imposition of minimum service agreements will undermine workers and unions. We ask that the Government withdraw this Bill and not impose any other restrictions on rights to strike.
This response was given on 23 February 2023
The Government believes in the ability to strike. However, this must be balanced against our first duty: to preserve the lives and livelihoods of British people by protecting essential services.
Following introduction of the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, the situation on industrial action has changed significantly. Union bosses continue to dismiss the reasonable recommendations of independent pay review boards, which the Government has accepted, in favour of above-inflation pay demands which threaten to push up pay for everyone. Prolonged disruption, not just to transport but to a range of essential services, has had significant impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the public.
Therefore, the Government thought it only right to introduce the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, a bill which secured minimum levels of safety and service across a larger number of key sectors.
This legislation seeks to ensure that services vital for the British people’s lives and livelihoods, like rail, ambulances, and fire services, maintain a basic function, delivering minimum levels of safety and service during strike action. Only by doing this can we fulfil our basic duty to the public.
The ability to strike is a critical part of industrial relations in the United Kingdom, and it is rightly protected by law. This Government understands, too, that an element of disruption is inherent to any strike.
But recent industrial action has caused unprecedented disruption for everybody; for members of the public who rely on rail to get to work or care for their family; for NHS staff trying their best to deliver care for patients; for children in schools trying to recover months of lost learning after the pandemic; and for local businesses who lose employees and custom at a time when they need it most.
This legislation does not seek to impede the ability to strike. At most, it restricts the ability to strike only for those workers named in a work notice, who are required to work to ensure that a minimum level of safety and service can be maintained during strike action.
This is not a radical move; it is similar to what can be seen in other modern European countries. Some countries, including Australia and Canada, have the ability to ban strikes that endanger life outright, such as in their ambulance and firefighting services. We do the same for our police force, but we do not wish to do that with other public services.
We hope that we will not have to use the powers in this Bill where adequate voluntary agreements are in place. However, we cannot continue to rely upon existing legislation or voluntary arrangements to protect the people we represent.
This legislation, therefore, represents a reasonable, balanced, and – above all – fair response, which protects the right to strike whilst ensuring a minimum level of safety and service for everyone.
Department for Energy Security and Net Zero
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Other parliamentary business
MPs debate the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill
MPs debated the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill on Monday 16 January in the main chamber of the House of Commons. This was a Second Reading debate, where MPs debated the general principles of the Bill.
The Bill includes provisions about the minimum service levels required by those taking strike action as part of a trade union. The Bill would allow the Government to set minimum service levels for public services such as fire, ambulance and transport services.
You can read more about the measures included in the Bill in this House of Commons Library Research Briefing.
What is a Second Reading?
Second Reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of a Bill.
At the end of the debate, the Commons decide whether the Bill should be given its Second Reading, meaning it can proceed to the next stage. If there isn't consensus that a Bill should proceed to its next stage, MPs will vote on this.
Find out more about how Second Reading works.
What happens next?
Having passed Second Reading, MPs will now consider the Bill in detail, and can suggest amendments (proposals for change) to the Bill.
Read more about the bill and keep up to date with its progress.
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Share your views on proposals for minimum service levels for passenger rail
The Government has launched a public consultation on implementing minimum service levels for passenger rail services during periods of strike action.
Find out more about the consultation, and share your views.
The consultation is open until 11.45pm on 15 May 2013. Once the consultation has closed, the Government will publish a summary of the responses and next steps. We will share these with you when they are published.
What is the Government seeking views on?
The Government is seeking views from the public, from the rail sector, trade unions and wider industries to develop a more detailed understanding of the impact of strike activity and how minimum service levels might be applied for passenger rail to reduce the disruptions caused by strikes.
Read more about the Government's plans in their press release launching the consultation.
MPs investigate Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill mean for the rail sector
A group of MPs called the Transport Committee are looking into how the Government's proposed Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill would apply in practice to the rail sector, for passengers, freight and impacted businesses.
The Committee is considering issues including:
- What a minimum service might mean for different lines operated by different companies
- How many services per day could commuters on busy routes expect
- How rail companies will decide which workers are needed and which can strike
- What impact services on strike days will have on rail timetables in the days following a strike
Read the Committee's press notice announcing this work for more information.
The Committee will conduct 'evidence sessions' where they will hear from experts in the sector and representatives from the Government. These experts are called 'witnesses' and they help MPs to gain a deeper understanding of the topic. The Committee will then consider all the evidence it has taken and publish a report of its findings with recommendations to the Government on any changes that might be needed.
For more information about the inquiry, visit the Committee's inquiry page.
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