In response to a wave of strikes across multiple industries, the government introduced the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) bill to parliament earlier this month.
What is included in the bill?
If passed, this bill will direct the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to provide minimum service levels for medical services, fire and rescue services, education services, transportation services, and decommissioning and management of nuclear facilities. will be given the authority to do so. The details of the minimum service levels for radioactive waste and spent fuel themselves will be outlined in future regulations. This differs from previously proposed legislation. The law required minimum service levels to be negotiated between employers and unions.
The current draft of the bill would mandate a minimum service level, allowing employers to identify members of staff who must work under strike to ensure that level of service and issue work notices. will be Before doing so, the employer must consult the union and take into account the views expressed by the union.
Workers who go on strike despite having been issued a work notice lose their right to automatic protection from unfair dismissal. Unions that do not take reasonable steps to ensure compliance by all members identified in the work notice may face potential tort claims.
In the context of schools, service levels can be aimed at ensuring that schools have minimal staff and only certain children are cared for. Or it can be used for broader purposes, e.g. to avoid impacting exam ratings or even cancellations. class. There is little clarity here, as the powers given to the Secretary of State in the bill are neither qualified nor limited. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan hopes government anti-strike laws won’t be required for teaching jobs, but will introduce minimum service levels in the future to protect ‘vulnerable children’ in schools said to
As our readers know, the NEU Teachers’ Union is planning a seven-day strike in England and Wales starting February 1st. Of course, the bill will not be enacted by then, but if it does, it could be relevant for future industrial action at schools. described as an attack on workers and civil liberties. When it was debated earlier this week, it also received harsh criticism from the other side of the House, but nevertheless passed a second reading.
Commentators point out that even if the bill becomes law, it will likely face legal challenges under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The right to form and join trade unions to protect this interest. Importantly, Article 11 states that the prescription is provided by law and states that “in a democratic society, for the sake of national security or public safety, the prevention of disorder or crime, the protection of health or morality, or the for the protection of rights and freedoms.” The real question is what is the minimum service level that can be said to be “necessary” to meet that objective and, as a result, what the minimum service level is among the various service sectors? How do they differ?
For schools, it will be interesting to see what legitimacy governments are going to rely on in imposing minimum service levels. For example, health protections are unlikely to apply (although perhaps relevant in the context of vulnerable children). As it stands, we will have to keep a close eye on whether the bill will go into effect and, if it does, how it will hold up in court. Right to Strike.
Thanks to Employment Paralegal Simran Patel for contributing to this article.
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This publication is a general summary of the law. It does not replace legal advice tailored to your particular situation.
© Farrer & Co LLP, January 2023