The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has criticized the legislation as “draconian” and argued that it hampers workers’ ability to organize and protect their rights.
Delegates at the Trade Union Congress (TUC), representing over five million workers across the UK economy, have resolved to rally widespread opposition against the Minimum Service Levels Act (MSL).
The MSL, passed in July, applies to various sectors, including fire and rescue, health, education, and transportation.
According to the law, employers will have the authority to require named workers to work on strike days.
These measures are intended to maintain minimum service levels for rail, ambulance, and rescue services during strikes.
The TUC has referred to the legislation as “draconian” and claimed that it impairs workers’ ability to organize and defend their rights.
A unanimously approved motion by the congress aims to legally challenge the MSL, support protests, and organize a nationwide march against the legislation.
The “non-compliance” motion was proposed by the Fire Brigades Union and the teachers’ union NASUWT.
Fire Brigades Union General Secretary Matt Wrack stated that unions will build a campaign capable of overcoming anti-union laws. He also welcomed the Labour Party’s commitment to repeal the new legislation if they win the next general election.
Mr. Wrack addressed the congress, saying, “We need to demand that Labour does not backtrack.”
The TUC plans to host a conference to explore methods of non-compliance and resistance to the new minimum service levels. Mr. Wrack clarified that the unions’ intent is not to violate the law, but members may find themselves in an untenable position.
The government believes that the MSL strikes a necessary balance between the right to strike and the protection of lives and the welfare of the public.
This year has witnessed an unprecedented number of strikes in the UK by hundreds of thousands of workers, including nurses, teachers, civil servants, and railway staff.
The government is concerned about the impact of these strikes on access to emergency services and the overall economy. It was reported that over 600,000 medical appointments since December 2022 had to be rescheduled, and the country lost at least £1.2 billion in the year leading up to June 2023.
The government emphasizes that minimum service levels will ensure public safety.
Strikes this year have been prompted by disputes over payment and employment conditions. Notably, the NHS has experienced unprecedented strikes by junior and senior doctors, and there have been pay disputes involving teachers, civil servants, and airport workers.
While major teaching unions accepted the government’s offer of a 6.5 percent pay raise by August, Downing Street has yet to reach agreements with rail workers and junior doctors, who are preparing to strike in September.
By enacting the new law, the government is employing “illegal and immoral tactics” because it lost the argument with the unions, says NASUWT General Secretary Patrick Roach.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak stated that the new legislation falls short of the international legal standards set by the UN workers’ rights watchdog.