ANTI-STRIKE laws setting out minimum staffing levels during industrial action have been extended to Border Force employees, including in Scotland, and ambulance and rail workers in England. 

UK ministers had launched a consultation on minimum service levels for ambulance staff and passenger rail workers after the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act became law.

The legislation, passed earlier this year, faced fierce criticism from trade unions as unworkable and a threat to the right to strike.

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It came as the Tories grappled with a wave of strike action by rail workers, teachers, health workers and others in England, fuelled by anger at the failure of pay to keep pace with soaring inflation.

Disputes – some of which have since been resolved – also centred on deteriorating working conditions, and the strikes have caused major disruption across England and Wales.

The UK Government said minimum service levels would ensure that public services continue in the face of walkouts, calling the measures “effective and proportionate”.

The legislation to bring the move into effect is to be laid in the UK Parliament on Tuesday, with Tory ministers aiming to have it completed before Christmas.

The National:

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (above) said: “We are doing everything in our power to stop unions derailing Christmas for millions of people. This legislation will ensure more people will be able to travel to see their friends and family and get the emergency care they need.

“We cannot go on relying on short-term fixes – including calling on our armed forces or civil servants – to mitigate the disruption caused by strike action.

“That’s why we’re taking the right long-term decision to bring in minimum service levels, in line with other countries, to keep people safe and continue delivering the vital public services that hard-working people rely on.”

The regulations will apply to employees of Border Force and some Passport Office staff in England, Wales and Scotland.

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Under the rules for train operators, the UK Government said regulations will mean the equivalent of 40% of normal timetables operating as normal.

Minimum service levels for ambulance workers will apply in England only. The legislation has been designed to ensure that emergency services “will continue throughout any strike action”.

Paul Nowak (below), TUC general secretary, said: “These anti-strike laws won’t work. The crisis in our public services is of the Government’s own making.

“Rather than engaging constructively with unions, they are attacking the right to strike, and they are punishing paramedics and rail staff for daring to stand up for decent pay and better services.

The National:

“These new laws are unworkable, undemocratic and almost certainly in breach of international law."

He added that the UK already has the "most restrictive" trade union laws in Europe and the Tories are making it more difficult for workers to take action against bad pay and conditions. 

He added: “Unions will keep fighting this spiteful legislation. We won’t stop until it is repealed.”

Mick Lynch, Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary, said: “We believe employers have the discretion not to issue minimum service work notices and as such we are calling on them not to issue them.

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“Any employer that seeks to issue a work notice will find themselves in a further dispute with my union.

“Even the Government’s own impact assessment has said that the legislation could lead to more strikes, so instead of attacking workers and their trade unions the Government should spend its time trying to resolve disputes, not inflaming them.”

Sara Gorton (below), Unison’s head of health, said: “This pointless move won’t solve a single problem in the NHS. But it will create many more difficulties for everyone.

The National:

“Measures are already in place to protect patients during action. Sacking ambulance workers on strike won’t get the millions awaiting hospital treatment any closer to the top of the list.

“It’s just a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the Government’s appalling record on the NHS.

“The public wants ministers to cut waiting times, shorten delays and attract more staff to the NHS. Not make an already dire situation significantly worse.”

We previously told how fears were raised that the legislation may breach European human rights rules.