The Conservative chair of the transport select committee has warned that minimum service levels in the anti-strike laws could worsen industrial relations and “end up making [rail] services less reliable”.
Iain Stewart, Conservative MP and chair of cross-party committee, also slammed the government’s plans for a lack of detail. The chair criticised the government’s “half-hearted response to our recommendation”.
Stewart urged ministers to keep a close eye on developments cautioning that “major changes to timetabling on the rail network haven’t always gone seamlessly in the past.”
The legislation gives ministers sweeping powers to impose strike restrictions in any service within health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning – and has faced widespread criticism.
NHS Providers recently warned that the legislation could worsen industrial relations, harm patient care and lead to more disruption. The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) wrote to the government to express “serious concerns” about its anti-strike legislation breaching international law. The EHRC also warned that the legislation could see all striking workers in affected sectors lose their unfair dismissal protection, as whole strikes could be deemed illegal.
The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee criticised the Act for giving blanket powers to UK ministers while providing virtually no detail.
The Act has also faced a barrage of criticism from civil liberties organisations, the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, race and gender equalities groups, employment rights lawyers, and politicians around the world.
Plus, as the Canary previously reported:
More than 80 businesses, unions and civil society organisations have issued a joint statement as part of the UK and EU Domestic Advisory Groups – two watchdogs which are charged with holding the UK government and EU to account on their commitments under the post-Brexit deal.
The joint statement says they recognise the concerns about the impact of the Strikes Act on the UK government’s legal obligations under the deal, which stipulates that workers’ rights must not be lowered from the level they were at in 2020.
The transport committee chair’s comments come as minimum service levels in rail, the ambulance service, and border security are back in the Lords on Wednesday 6 December.
Ministers have said these new rules will be rushed into force by the end of the year.
Ministers are also consulting on rules affecting workers in hospital settings, schools, universities and fire services.
This is despite warnings from unions and employer groups that the plans are unworkable.
The laws will mean that when workers lawfully vote to strike, they could be forced to attend work – and sacked if they don’t comply.
Trades Union Congress (TUC) research found a massive one in five workers in Britain – or 5.5 million workers – are at risk of losing their right to strike as a result of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act.
The TUC will hold a special Congress to discuss the next stage of campaigning against the Conservatives’ anti-strike laws. The event will take place at Congress House on Saturday 9 December 2023, from 10am-1pm.
‘Undemocratic, unworkable, and likely illegal’
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said:
The Conservative anti-strike laws are a recipe for chaos and toxic industrial relations. They will do nothing to improve public services and transport.
It’s little wonder so many MPs, employers and civil society groups have warned about the impact of this legislation.
These anti-strike laws are a deliberate attempt to restrict the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.
Make no mistake – they are undemocratic, unworkable and likely illegal.
And crucially they will poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them.
That’s why unions won’t stop fighting this nasty legislation until it’s repealed.
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