Striking is an integral part of a functioning democratic society. While it can cause temporary inconvenience and make certain services difficult or impossible to access, striking is essential and gives workers leverage to secure better pay and better working conditions. Over the years, workers in the UK have been striking to secure benefits such as two-day weekends, minimum wage, parental leave, and greater equality.
However, recent legislation from the UK government is set to limit the power of trade unions, which in turn will limit the power of the workers on the frontline of our most essential services. Let’s take a look at the UK anti-strike law in more detail and discuss how it will affect Scottish workers.
What stage is the UK Anti-Strike Law at?
The new UK anti-strike law, officially named the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, is a proposed piece of legislation designed to ensure there is a minimum level of service available on services while strike action is taking place.
The bill was passed in parliament on the 30th of January by 315 votes to 246, with much pushback from the opposition, who maintained the bill was set to severely impact the rights and wellbeing of workers in the UK.
Currently, the UK anti-strike law is set for a second reading in the House of Lords, where it will be further examined before a decision is made to enshrine the bill as an Act of Parliament.
What will the UK Anti-Strike Law mean for workers?
To understand what the UK anti-strike law will mean for workers, we must first examine just what the bill entails. Under the terms of the legislation, the government will have the power to set minimum levels of service for specific public service sectors, these being education, fire and rescue, health, border security, and certain services regarding nuclear energy.
Details on the scale of these minimum service levels are scant, but the bill will mean that employees could be forced to go into work, even if they have legally voted to take part in strike action.
The UK anti-strike law will allow employers to serve unions with what are known as work notices, after which the union will need to break the strike and send a number of people back to work to meet minimum required service levels.
The bill will also work to erode the statutory rights of workers, who are protected from facing repercussions after taking part in strike action under the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act. If employees fail to comply with a work notice, the UK anti-strike bill will give their employer the power to dismiss them.
Given that striking workers like nurses tend to see significant public support, as this poll from YouGov suggests, there has been enormous pushback against this proposed UK anti-strike law.
What will it mean for Scottish workers?
Unfortunately for workers north of the border, the UK anti-strike law will also be applicable to Scotland. If it passes through the Lords and back through the House of Commons, we can expect to see the rights of workers in Scotland impacted significantly.
If you work in the Scottish health, education, fire and rescue, border control, or nuclear energy industries, you can expect your legal right to withhold your labour to be curtailed should the UK anti-strike law pass.
Striking is a fundamental right that workers can exercise to demand fairer pay and better working conditions. Trade unions and activist groups have unsurprisingly hit back at the planned legislation, accusing it of being a thinly veiled, draconian attack on the rights of workers in the UK.