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Employers could sue unions under new anti-strike laws

Associate Daniel Zona from the Employment team shares his thoughts on these potential anti-strike laws.

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Published 5 January 2023

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The government is reported to be considering a change in strike laws that would bring in “minimum service level” requirements across six sectors, including health, rail and education. Under the proposed changes, a strike could be deemed unlawful if unions or their members refuse to provide a minimum level of service when strikes are organised, and employers would be able to take legal action against unions and their members. It is reported that Sunak will also make it lawful for an employer to dismiss an employee who refuses to provide a minimum level of service.

The clear and obvious purpose of the proposed changes is to diminish and curtail the effectiveness of strike action in those six sectors. Employers may find they are able to effectively disregard strike action, or at least give it less significance, in negotiations with unions if they’re still able to provide a minimum service.

If made law, these changes could amount to one of the most significant curbs on the fundamental right to strike in recent decades. It could in effect amount to forcing some workers to work against their will. The proposed changes could breach human rights legislation and potentially modern slavery laws.

It is likely the proposed changes would be counterproductive and lead to further disruption and legal challenges by unions and other interested groups. The government will reportedly formally announce the new changes in the coming days.

For more information, visit our Employment Law for Employees page.

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Shorter Reads

Employers could sue unions under new anti-strike laws

Associate Daniel Zona from the Employment team shares his thoughts on these potential anti-strike laws.

Published 5 January 2023

Associated sectors / services

Authors

The government is reported to be considering a change in strike laws that would bring in “minimum service level” requirements across six sectors, including health, rail and education. Under the proposed changes, a strike could be deemed unlawful if unions or their members refuse to provide a minimum level of service when strikes are organised, and employers would be able to take legal action against unions and their members. It is reported that Sunak will also make it lawful for an employer to dismiss an employee who refuses to provide a minimum level of service.

The clear and obvious purpose of the proposed changes is to diminish and curtail the effectiveness of strike action in those six sectors. Employers may find they are able to effectively disregard strike action, or at least give it less significance, in negotiations with unions if they’re still able to provide a minimum service.

If made law, these changes could amount to one of the most significant curbs on the fundamental right to strike in recent decades. It could in effect amount to forcing some workers to work against their will. The proposed changes could breach human rights legislation and potentially modern slavery laws.

It is likely the proposed changes would be counterproductive and lead to further disruption and legal challenges by unions and other interested groups. The government will reportedly formally announce the new changes in the coming days.

For more information, visit our Employment Law for Employees page.

Associated sectors / services

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