Strikes (Minimum Services) Bill introduced in the House of Commons
The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill was introduced in Parliament on 10th January. It has now passed its third reading in the House of Commons and will next be subject to scrutiny by the House of Lords.
If it becomes law it will allow the Secretary of State to set minimum service levels (MSLs) in a number of different sectors, including health, transport and education. Employers in those sectors will then be able to identify the workers required to work during a strike in order to ensure the MSL.
The relevant trade union will lose its immunity from liability under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 if it fails to take reasonable steps to ensure that all members of the union who have been identified fail to comply with the requirement to work. In these circumstances an employer could potentially get an interim injunction against the union preventing it from calling its members out on strike, and the union could face civil liabilities of up to £1,000,000 for calling unlawful industrial action. Meanwhile employees who are identified in a valid work notice but still take part in the strike action would lose automatic protection from unfair dismissal.
The government has stated that it will consult first on MSLs for fire, ambulance and rail services, and has expressed the hope that it will not have to use these powers for other sectors included in the Bill as it "expects parties in these sectors to reach a sensible and voluntary agreement…on delivering a reasonable level of service when there is strike action". The impact of this proposed legislation may be minimal as, if it does come into force, Labour has promised to repeal it if it wins the next General Election.