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Civil society express concerns about anti-strike legislation

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Groups, including Scottish campaigners, have warned the move could lead to further industrial action.

Leading civil society representatives have written to the UK Government warning that new legislation to limit industrial action will make it harder to resolve disputes and could lead to further strikes. 

More than 50 organisations, including Art27 Scotland, Human Rights Consortium Scotland, and Mental Health Rights Scotland have signed a letter outlining their opposition to the proposed Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill. 

The legislation would allow Ministers to write regulations in any services within six sectors (health, education, fire and rescue, border force, nuclear decommissioning and transport) that will force workers to work during strike action. 

Employers would then issue work notices naming who has to work and what they must do. 

Workers could be sacked and unions face huge damages if they fail to comply. 

The move comes amid a wave of strike action across the country and ahead of a co-ordinated day of strike action on February 1. 

The government says the Bill is necessary to ensure that crucial public services can continue to operate during industrial action, “maintaining public safety” and allowing people to get to work.

But charities, campaigners and legal experts have hit out at the government and called for a reconsideration of the move. 

The groups wrote: “The right to strike is a fundamental liberty.

“In Great Britain it is already highly constrained by detailed rules concerning balloting, notice periods and picketing.

“We believe the proposals for minimum service levels during industrial action will unfairly constrain the activities of trade unions and their members by allowing a further significant

and unjustified intrusion by the state into the freedom of association and assembly.

“The government has produced no evidence that such draconian measures are necessary.

Voluntary life-and-limb cover has long been a feature of industrial action by essential


“This Bill has the potential to cause significant damage to fair and effective industrial relations

in this country by making it harder to resolve disputes.

Indeed the government itself has acknowledged that minimum service levels risk leading to

an increased frequency of strikes.

“We are also concerned by the lack of detail in the Bill, and the enormous scope it gives you

and your successors as Secretary of State to decide key provisions, including the minimum

service levels themselves, free from proper Parliamentary scrutiny.

“In particular, the vast power given to Ministers to amend or revoke primary legislation,

including Acts that do not even exist yet, is an extraordinary denial of the duty of our elected

representatives to legislate on our behalf.

“The Bill will expand the power of Ministers over Parliament and employers over workers,

undermine rights protections, and inject uncertainty and precarity into the lives of millions of

people who may now face dismissal for going on strike.

“We urge you to reconsider these plans for an unwarranted curtailment of freedom of

assembly and association.”