The Tories’ controversial anti-strike bill, known as the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, passed its second reading in parliament as MPs backed the legislation by 309 votes to 249 last Monday. This has been met with criticism from trade unions across the UK as the bill is likely to pass through the Commons by the end of the month. Impact’s Sophie Robinson reports.
Under this bill, the right to strike would be limited by imposing minimum service levels which would allow bosses to legally sack employees who ignore a ‘work notice’ ordering them to work on days of industrial action.
Opposition MPs condemned the government for its attack on workers’ democratic rights and punishment of frontline workers. Labour MP Paula Barker referred to the bill as “bosses’ charter”, highlighting the power which will be given to Ministers and employers should the bill pass.
“When strikes occur, people’s lives and livelihoods are not put at undue risk”
During the debate in the Commons, Business Secretary Grant Shapps defended the bill by claiming it will retain public safety. He said: “We must be able to have confidence that when strikes occur, people’s lives and livelihoods are not put at undue risk. As has become clear from recent industrial action, that is not always the case, so we need a safety net in place to ensure that the public do not become collateral damage.”
He also confirmed that the government would not be funding any above inflation pay rises, despite facing industrial action across the public sector and an increasingly concerning epidemic of poverty.
The RCN also announced two more days of nursing industrial action next month
Former Home Secretary, Priti Patel, suggested ministers should consider “widening the list of sectors where minimum service standards are needed”. As the statute was being debated in the Commons, it was announced that the first strikes by teachers since 2016 will be taking place in February and March. The RCN also announced two more days of nursing industrial action next month.
When asked about the proposed legislation, General Secretary of Unison, the UK’s largest trade union, Christina McAnea said: “When they [the government] talk about impact on the public, they forget that public sector workers are the public.”
The government is trying to “demonise” public sector workers during a time of record levels of strike action
She further asserted her thoughts on the bill, saying: “It’s a serious attack on human rights, without a doubt” and that the government is trying to “demonise” public sector workers during a time of record levels of strike action.
It is confirmed that the bill will move to the next stage which will be a Committee of the whole House, where MPs will debate the legislation, and the future of industrial action, in more detail.
Featured image courtesy of Ken Whytock via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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