The Strikes (Minimum Services Levels) Act 2023

The IER publishes a new briefing on the Strikes (Minimum Services Levels) Act, as the trade union movement meets to fight the anti-strike laws

6 Dec 2023| News

Ahead of the TUC’s Special Congress this Saturday, the Institute of Employment Rights (IER), alongside the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom (CTUF), has published a comprehensive briefing on the Minimum Service Levels legislation, designed to inform the debate on ways to challenge the Government’s restrictions on trade union freedoms and the right to strike.

It’s unusual for the TUC to convene the whole trade union movement for a special Congress outside of the TUC’s annual Congress event, which takes place in September. A special Congress last took place over 40 years ago in 1982, to fight Margaret Thatcher’s anti-union legislation. The TUC have talked about the fact that these are exceptional circumstances given the “unprecedented attack on the right to strike”.

In this context, Professor Keith Ewing and Lord John Hendy KC, President, and Chair of the IER respectively, have written an up-to-date briefing in the build up to the TUC’s conference on the anti-strikes legislation, which takes place on Saturday 9th December. Professor Ewing and Lord Hendy are long-standing and well-respected experts in the field of employment rights and labour law and have written extensively on the new anti-trade union legislation.

In the briefing, the authors say:

“The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act is not about preventing disruption to the public in a strike. It is about preventing workers through their unions pushing back, as they have been over the last year, against low wages and poor conditions.”


“Self-evidently, the Act violates the right to strike, a right established by many international treaties which the UK has ratified. Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights made this clear at an early stage in the parliamentary life of the Bill. The government claims that international law permits minimum service levels to be set by law. But, though true, international law permits them only in exceptional circumstances and subject to tightly regulated conditions.”

The detailed briefing will provide an invaluable resource to trade unions faced with the new legislation, which will mean that when workers vote to strike in the health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning sectors, they could be forced to attend work by order of a ‘work notice’ – and potentially be sacked if they don’t comply. In addition, the legislation allows for union’s who do not comply to be sued, up to a maximum of £1 million.

The Institute of Employment Rights (IER) was formed in 1989, in part to respond to a raft of Thatcherite anti-trade union legislation. It seeks to develop an alternative approach to labour law and industrial relations and aims to generate discussion on the future of trade union freedoms and employment law.

The IER was central to the formulation of the employment rights package that went into Labour’s manifesto in 2017 and 2019, and which lives on in the party’s New Deal for Workers.

The Campaign for Trade Union Freedom (CTUF) is a campaigning organisation fighting to defend and enhance trade unionism and oppose all anti-union laws, as well as promoting and defending collective bargaining across UK, Europe, and the world.

Together the IER and CTUF have been at the heart of the debate around the latest tranche of anti-trade union legislation and have published a wide range of analyses and commentary on the Minimum Service Levels Bill in its different iterations and during its passage through both Houses of Parliament. Most of these articles can be found on the IER’s website, here.

You can read the full briefing on the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 here, as a pdf:

Or on our website here.

Notes to editors

  1. For further information, contact Ben Sellers at the IER on 07754482980 or email
  2. More details about the TUC’s special Congress can be found here:
  3. The Institute of Employment Rights (IER) website can be found here:
  4. A more general summary of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) legislation can be found here:
  5. The IER has also recently produced a timeline of attempts to repress trade union activity, from Edward I to the Minimum Service Levels legislation. That can be accessed here:
  6. You can follow the IER on Twitter / X here: and on Facebook here: