Opportunities for strikes by British trade unions in the transport network are being restricted


Ministers will seek to hamper unions’ ability to shut down the UK’s transport network with new legislation on Thursday enforcing a “minimum service level” even during industrial disputes.

The Government said the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which will deliver on a promise made in the 2019 Tory Manifesto, would mean a certain level of precaution would have to be taken during strikes on the transport network.

“This will allow passengers to get to work, attend school and make important doctor’s appointments, and businesses can further stimulate the economy,” it said, citing economists’ estimates that rail strikes in June alone killed the economy nearly 100 percent have cost millions of pounds.

It added that the law “would mean that companies and passengers would no longer be disproportionately and unfairly pocketed” by striking workers.

Liz Truss cited the legislation in the Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday as she accused the opposition Labor Party of being lenient with unions. “Hard working people and companies should not be blackmailed through strikes,” she said.

Under the new agreements, which are expected to come into effect next year, rail operators would specify the manpower needed to ensure adequate levels of service during strikes. Unions would then have to take reasonable steps to ensure that sufficient staff were available to achieve this.

If a “specified employee” were to resign, they would lose their automatic wrongful dismissal protections.

The Central Arbitration Committee, an independent body, would set the minimum number of benefits if employers and unions could not reach an agreement.

Although the draft law will provide the legal framework for “minimum service levels”, details on their application will only be decided after a public consultation.

Unions have criticized the legislation, with the RMT calling it a “draconian attempt to challenge the basic human right to strike”.

The dispute between the RMT and Network Rail also deepened on Wednesday, as the infrastructure manager dismissed claims that it had backed down on a salary offer to staff.

Network Rail said an offer of an 8 percent pay rise over two years and no mandatory job losses until 2025 remains on the table. But it warned it was driving changes in labor practices and some 1,850 layoffs.

The RMT has also extended a new round of industrial action. Their members will be moving out on November 3 across Network Rail, 14 train operators and the London Underground and Overground. They will stage another strike at Network Rail and the train operators on November 5th and not until November 7th at Network Rail.

The introduction of the law coincides with Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer’s address to the TUC Congress, the annual meeting of Britain’s trade union movement, in Brighton on Thursday.

The Government wishes to highlight the close links between Labor and the unions, which fund the party with millions of pounds each year.

But Starmer has been sitting on the fence in the recent spate of industrial action on the railroads. Excerpts from his speech published Wednesday evening made no mention of the forthcoming strikes.

Meanwhile, the transport minister on Wednesday announced a delay in the government’s railway reform as she ruled out tabling a transport bill in this parliamentary session.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan told the House of Commons Transport Committee she “missed an opportunity” to introduce the bill.

The legislation would have included plans for the biggest restructuring of the railways in a generation through the creation of a new public body to oversee infrastructure and train traffic.

Trevelyan said the reforms would not be ready by early 2024 as expected, and envisaged changing parts of the plan first outlined by her predecessor Grant Shapps in the spring of last year.


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