Government takes measures against strike action to keep people moving

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The new Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill aims to ensure some transport services still run during strikes

The Government has taken the first steps to ensure transport strikes no longer bring the country to a halt. The Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill will mean that, even during the most disruptive of strikes, a certain level of services will still run to allow passengers to make essential journeys. As well as the huge impact on people’s day-to-day lives, economists have assessed that the first wave of rail strikes alone in June 2022 cost the UK economy nearly £100 million, putting extra pressures on business and stopping people across the country from accessing their workplace during a cost-of-living crisis.

The Government says that the new law will mean businesses and passengers are no longer disproportionately and unfairly hit in the pocket through events outside of their control and the decisions of striking workers and the unions.

Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Strikes have affected nearly all of us over this last year – whether that means losing out on a day’s pay at work, having to close your business, missing vital medical appointments or stopping our children from getting to school. It is vital that public transport users have some continuity of service to keep Britain moving and growing – this legislation will give everyone the certainty they need to carry on with their daily lives.”

The legislation will mean that a minimum service level must be in place during transport strikes – and if this is not delivered, the unions will lose legal protections from damages. Employers will specify the workforce required to meet an adequate service level during strikes and unions must take reasonable steps to ensure an appropriate number of specified workers still work on strike days. Specified workers who still take strike action will lose their protection from automatic unfair dismissal.

The Bill will set out the legal framework to allow minimum service levels to not only be set across the entire transport sector, but also implemented and enforced. The specific details of how minimum service levels will apply to transport services will be set out in secondary legislation in due course after a public consultation. The intention of the legislation is that relevant employers and unions agree a minimum service level to continue running during all strikes over a three-month period. If such a level cannot be agreed, an independent arbitrator – the Central Arbitration Committee – will determine the minimum number of services.

The bill will undertook its first reading on 20 October. The legislation is expected to come into force on transport services across the country in 2023 and follows similar rules already in place in countries across Europe, including France and Spain.

The multiple rail strikes that have taken place in the last few months have often left the public stranded, with no rail replacement service provided; the new minimum service levels bill will change that. RICHARD SHARMAN