The government press release states that the government will first consult on minimum service levels for fire, ambulance and rail services; recognising the severe disruption that can be caused when these services are impacted by strikes. The government hopes that it will not have to use these powers for other sectors included in the Bill, such as education, other transport services, border security, other health services and nuclear decommissioning.
The government is keen for voluntary agreements to be reached in these sectors. Under the proposed Bill the government would have the power to impose minimum service levels should that become necessary.
If the new legislation is enacted relevant employers will be able to identify the persons required to work during the strike in order to secure that the levels of service under the minimum service regulations are provided. Trade unions would be required to take reasonable steps to ensure that all members of the union comply with a work notice. The union will lose its immunity from damages if it does not comply with the obligations under the legislation.
Minimum service levels are already in place in other countries such as Italy and Spain. It is perhaps unsurprising following the widespread strike action in recent months that the UK government would look to implement similar restrictions. Some commentators have labelled the move as "anti-strike". The government has insisted that it is not attacking the right to strike, and unions have intimated that the Bill may exacerbate industrial action rather than limit its impact.
The Bill had its first reading on 10 January 2023. We will keep you updated.