The new law, which will be presented to parliament on Tuesday, mandates train operators to ensure that at least 40% of their regular schedule is maintained during strike days.
The government stated that the minimum service level regulations would guarantee that specific priority routes would remain accessible. However, it is not specified which trips would be included.
Equivalent regulations will also be implemented for Border Force, requiring them to maintain adequate staffing levels to ensure they remain as efficient as usual.
During times of strike, ambulance employees in England will be required to adhere to minimum service guidelines, ensuring that they promptly attend to cases that are potentially life-threatening or when there are no other medical options available. However, even without strikes, ambulances may not be able to respond to all calls.
The Conservative party has struggled with a surge of strikes from railway employees, educators, healthcare workers, and others who are frustrated with their wages not keeping up with the rising cost of living.
Several conflicts, a few of which have been settled, have also revolved around worsening work environments. As a result, the strikes have greatly disrupted operations in England and Wales.
The government stated that implementing minimum service levels would guarantee the continuation of public services during strikes. They deemed these measures to be both effective and appropriate.
This year, the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act was introduced, which was heavily criticized by trade unions as impractical and a danger to the ability to strike.
Rishi Sunak announced that the newly implemented rules aim to prevent unions from disrupting Christmas plans for millions of individuals. The government is optimistic that the legislation will be finalized prior to the holiday season.
The new law aims to increase the number of individuals who can visit loved ones and receive necessary medical assistance while traveling. The speaker emphasized the need for a long-term solution instead of relying on temporary measures such as involving the military or government employees to minimize the impact of strikes.
According to the law, employers would give work notices to identify individuals who need to work during strikes. Unions are obligated to take necessary measures to ensure their members follow these notices, or else they will not be legally protected from claims for damages.
Paul Nowak, the general secretary of the TUC, said: “The crisis in our public services is of the government’s own making. Rather than engaging constructively with unions, they are attacking the right to strike, and they are punishing paramedics and rail staff for daring to stand up for decent pay and better services.
The recently implemented laws are impractical, anti-democratic, and most likely violate international regulations. Among European countries, the UK already has some of the strictest laws regarding trade unions. The Conservative party now aims to further increase obstacles for individuals to attain fair wages and working conditions.
The railway unions expressed their belief that the proposal was impractical. Maryam Eslamdoust, the TSSA’s general secretary, stated: “We have made it known to the government that this law is not feasible and unnecessary. Additionally, it goes against democratic principles and directly undermines the fundamental right to strike, which is an integral part of British democracy.”
Repeatedly, government officials are targeting railway employees by proposing reductions in the sector and anticipating unions to remain inactive, rather than advocating for their members. This will only worsen conflicts within the industry.
The laws were condemned by unions representing ambulance workers as being “useless” and unlikely to make 999 response times better on days of strike. They also saw it as an effort to blame staff for the poor condition of the NHS.
According to Sara Gorton, the leader of health at Unison, firing ambulance workers who are on strike will not bring the millions of people waiting for hospital treatment any closer to the top of the list. She believes it is simply a desperate ploy to divert attention from the government’s poor performance in managing the NHS.