UK: 'Alarming' anti-strike bill gives Government sweeping powers to clamp down on industrial action

People protesting standing up for their right to do so. They hold placards and banners.

Proposed anti-strike law ignores key safeguards and undermines international labour standards

‘The Government’s proposed changes to the right to strike are alarming and one more example of its drive to erode human rights in this country’ - Sacha Deshmukh

In reaction to the Government’s Strikes (Minimum Services Level) Bill, Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive of Amnesty International UK, said:

“The Government’s proposed changes to the right to strike are alarming and one more example of its drive to erode human rights in this country.

“The legislation ignores key safeguards that protect workers’ rights under international law. It gives ministers sweeping powers to impose minimum service levels after whatever consultations they see fit, rather than requiring them to negotiate alongside unions and employers, subject to third-party arbitration, where agreement cannot be reached.

“The key question to be asked on this is: does this bill meet International Labour Organization Standards – standards which the UK government has signed up to? The answer is a resounding ‘no’.”

A risk to the fundamental right to strike

While international labour standards do provide for minimum service levels in “public services of fundamental importance”, they are subject to important safeguards. Notably these include an expectation that such levels are negotiated between unions, employers and public authorities. They are also subject to third-party (preferably judicial) arbitration where agreement cannot be reached.

Amnesty is also concerned that definitions within the bill are too broad. It refers in general terms to “education services”, “health service” and “transport services” and although some parts of these areas and some of the workers within them may be regarded as providing public services of fundamental importance, not all will be.

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