Government faced its second big defeat on the Strikes Bill

Matt Dykes of the TUC reports on another humiliation for the Government in the Lords

9 Jun 2023| News

This week the government faced its second big defeat on the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill in the House of Lords.

This Bill allows ministers to dictate levels of service that must be maintained in a range of key sectors when industrial action takes place. Individual workers will be forced by employers to turn up to work on strike days by naming them on work notices. If a worker fails to comply, they lose their protection against unfair dismissal. If a union fails to force those named members to break the strike, they too face severe financial penalties. This leaves the UK as an outlier among leading nations for its draconian approach to trade union rights.

So, it is encouraging to see that peers once again voted for key amendments to this Bill – as it returned to the House of Lords after the first attempt at amendments were voted down by Conservative MPs. The Lords made a further stand on the same ground, passing amendments that would:

  • ensure the regulations are subject to a greater degree of consultation and parliamentary scrutiny
  • individual workers can’t get sacked for breaking strikes they voted for
  • unions will not be obliged to force their members to comply with this pernicious legislation

The amended Bill will now be sent back to the Commons in the next few weeks. We fully expect the government to whip its MPs again to vote down the Lords amendments. They will want to push this legislation through in the face of opposition from peers, employers, civil society groups, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, politicians from across the globe, the ILO and, of course, trade unions.

But they are paying a political price, the regulations that bring the new powers into effect remain mired in Departmental discussions on how to implement such complex and unworkable measures – unlikely to see the light of day until the autumn – and all opposition parties remain completely opposed to the Bill and intent on repealing it once we see a change of government.

Matt Dykes writing on the TUC blog.