Minimum Service Levels not needed for nuclear, says Government

The Department for Energy Security & Net Zero has no current plans for minimum service levels regulations in the nuclear sector

23 Feb 2024| News

Personnel Today reports:

Six broad public services are specified under the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023, including the “decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel”.

Rail, border security and ambulance services have all had minimum service level regulations enacted, while fire and rescue service regulations will be enacted once a union announces its intention to strike.

Hospitals, schools and colleges have been subject to public consultations, with the government making proposals on how minimum service levels might be imposed during strike action.

Responding to enquiries into the absence of any consultation or draft regulations, a Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (ESNZ) spokesperson said:

“The nuclear decommissioning sector already has a voluntary agreement with decommissioning workers. This ensures a minimum level of service during strike action and therefore doesn’t require government to use powers in the Strikes Act. These agreements have worked well so far, but we will continue to monitor adherence to these.”

The Office for Nuclear Regulation already sets a requirement for nuclear facilities to have a “minimum staff complement” to ensure safe operations and adequate response capabilities.

When the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill was announced in Parliament in January 2023, Prospect, one of the main unions in the sector, said the proposals showed “a complete lack of understanding of the nuclear industry”.

Prospect’s senior deputy general secretary Sue Ferns told Personnel Today:

“As we made clear when the government announced its intention to include the nuclear decommissioning sector in the minimum service levels legislation, unions have always acted to maintain safe levels of staffing in the event of industrial action in the sector.

Bringing this part of the bill into effect would only serve to damage the relationship between energy unions and the government. It is just another example of how this unwanted and unworkable law was poorly thought through by ministers from start to finish. The sooner it is repealed, the better.”

Unite national officer Simon Coop said:

“The government’s MSL legislation is not needed in the nuclear decommissioning industry. Nor is it needed in any other sector. It is abundantly clear that the government’s Strikes Act is not about safety – it is about attacking the rights of working people. Unite stands ready to act in the defence of any union or group of workers targeted by this pernicious legislation.”