Ministers to unveil anti-strike rules as disputes continue to paralyze UK |  Industrial action

Ministers to unveil anti-strike rules as disputes continue to paralyze UK | Industrial action

Ministers to unveil anti-strike rules as disputes continue to paralyze UK |  Industrial action

Ministers are set to unveil controversial new legislation designed to limit the effectiveness of strike action as industrial disputes continue to cripple services across the UK.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy previously said the bill would enforce “basic” levels of service from various sectors if workers went on strike.

Shapps said there was now a “lottery” if workers went on strike, saying nurses were willing to guarantee a national level of service during strikes, but the ambulance unions were not. “There was a sort of regional postcode lottery. This is something we want to avoid,” he told Sky News.

The legislation is likely to face a difficult passage in the House of Lords and a legal challenge from trade unions once it is passed – meaning minimum service levels are unlikely to be enforced for many months.

The government’s own impact assessment suggests the legislation could lead to “increased frequency of strikes … and more negative effects in the long term.”

Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today program he did not see it as a risk and said the government hoped it would never have to use the new power, citing differences between nurses and ambulance workers and saying he hoped the agreement can be concluded without the need to enforce it.

“I hope this brings everyone to the table to ensure the same minimum levels of security,” he said.

“I think minimum security levels make a lot of sense. I hope that instead of actually using the rules, we will be able to simply keep people safe. It can’t be right that Brits are exposed to such variance and services depending on where they live.”

The bill will go to parliament on Tuesday after Monday’s crisis talks between ministers and unions failed to resolve ongoing disputes with nurses, teachers and railway workers.

However, ministers have laid the groundwork for a reversal on pay for NHS staff, agreeing to discuss pay offers backdated to April and one-off payments to cover living costs that had previously been ruled out.

However, relations will probably be spoiled by the introduction of the act the day after the talks. Defending the proposed legislation, Shapps said the government wanted to end “perpetual strikes”.

He told Times Radio: “Everyone knows we want to bring about these strikes, which in some cases, for example on railways, seem to turn into something like perpetual strikes. We want to end it, and the government is doing everything it can to do that.”

He added: “Other countries such as Germany and France and others have minimum security levels and we want to make sure we do the same to protect the British people.

“All we would be doing here is adapting to what is already practiced in many other countries.”

Labor has warned that the bill could allow employers to sue unions and lay off workers. The party said it would oppose the bill and repeal it once in government.

Shapps rejected criticism that minimum service level legislation could lead to NHS staff being made redundant. He said: “This kind of saying someone is going to be fired is no more true than any employment contract, and that’s always the case when people have to abide by the law.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay is reportedly considering rolling back next year’s pay rise for NHS staff, as well as making a one-off payment for living expenses.

In a meeting with unions, Barclay is said to have suggested that improving efficiency and productivity in the health service could “unlock additional funds” to lead to an increased payroll offer for 2023-24 in the spring.

These comments were criticized by Unite, one of the unions involved in the talks, saying it was offensive to ask staff to work harder for more money. But Shapps said that wasn’t the point.

“Many, many new things have been introduced that could make healthcare, rail running and other things much more efficient,” he told Sky News.

“I think the health secretary was saying let’s try to take advantage of these things and that’s our way of paying people to be more productive.”

Sara Gorton, head of health at the Unison union, said the discussion represented a “change of tone” on the part of the UK government after months of ministers refusing to deviate from what had been recommended by independent pay regulators.

However, the unions said no “tangible offer” had been made, and Gorton called for “cold hard cash” to be offered so that members could be consulted on stopping strikes.

While in some circles there were positive voices about the talks, other unions were annoyed by the lack of discernible progress, and it was clear that the discussions were not enough to prevent the likelihood of further strikes in the health sector.

The physiotherapists also said they would announce dates for industrial action later this week despite talks, while the GMB union said ambulance strikes would go ahead as planned on Wednesday.

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