5 January 2023

Rishi Sunak’s proposed anti-strike laws will allow employers to sack and sue staff who take industrial action

The legislation is expected to cover the NHS, schools, rail, borders, fire and nuclear.

Rishi Sunak is set to announce new anti-strike legislation that will allow employers to sack and sue workers who take industrial action, as reported by The Times.

In a desperate attempt to halt the strikes taking place across the UK, the prime minister could bring forward legislation to enforce “minimum service levels” in several sectors – including health, rail, education and border security. 

Under the laws set to be announced as soon as Thursday, a number of union members will be forced to continue working even if they have voted to strike to maintain a “minimum service” level. 

A source told The Times: “This legislation will remove the legal immunity for strikes where unions fail to implement a minimum level of service. The strikes will be illegal. Ultimately people could be fired for breach of contract.”

The move is unlikely to directly affect the current ongoing strikes. MPs do not return until next week, and even if legislation is pushed forward in the Commons and the Lords, unions are expected to pursue legal action – arguing that the laws would be an infringement of the human rights act.

Tim Sharp, a senior employment rights officer at the Trade Union Congress (TUC), told The Times that the plans would be difficult to implement.

He said: “The Conservative Government’s plans would be a significant curb on working people’s fundamental right to strike to defend their pay terms and conditions. The measures are unworkable, counterproductive and almost certainly in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998. They can expect unions to fight this in parliament and in the courts.”

Last month, Sunak indicated he wanted to introduce anti-strike laws in an attempt to improve people’s lives and minimise disruption to their livelihoods. The prime minister was quizzed on Wednesday about the wave of strikes, replying that his government’s door is always open for dialogues.

He said: “You’ll hear more from the government in the coming days about our approach. My view is people should always behave reasonably and fairly and make sure that what we’re doing is centred around what is responsible for the country, what’s affordable for the country. I think that’s the right dialogue to be having, and I hope we can have that dialogue.”

“People should have the right to strike,” he continued, adding, “that has to be balanced with the right of the British public to go about their lives without suffering completely undue disruption in the way we’ve seen recently.”

  • Writer Chris Saunders
  • Banner Image Credit BBC News

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