Published on :

29/03/2024

Category :

After a lengthy battle in the House of Lords, further restrictions on the right to strike have been introduced in the UK via the "Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023".

The categories for which minimum services are foreseen are very wide and include:

  • health services;
  • fire and rescue services;
  • education services;
  • transport services;
  • decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel;
  • border security.

As pointed out by the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) in its analysis of the Act (accessible here), there are two provisions that stand out for the extent to which they restrict trade union rights and the right to strike.

The first provision gives employers the right to serve a "work notice" on a trade union that intends to strike in a sector in which minimum service levels have been designated. The notice also applies to workers individually who, in the event that they fail to respect the notice, will not be able to claim unfair dismissal. 

The second provision requires that, when a work notice is served, the trade union itself identify those workers affected by it and ensure that they comply. If they fail to do so, the strike will be declared illegal. This is the first time that a trade union is required to act as an enforcer on behalf of the state and employers.

While minimum levels of service are foreseen in international law, they are only allowed under exceptional circumstances. For an overview of these circumstances, please see the General Survey on the fundamental Conventions concerning rights at work in light of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as well as the Compilation of decisions of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association

As argued by the IER (see link above), as the Act stands it is in clear violation of ILO Convention 087 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948.

For the full text of the Act, see here.