Rishi Sunak will today unveil new anti-strike laws for “minimum safety levels” during industrial action. The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill – which would force key public services to maintain a “basic function” when workers stage walkouts – will be formally presented to the Commons this afternoon.
The legislation would apply to critical sectors including ambulance staff, firefighters and railway workers.
But the proposals risk triggering a fresh clash with the unions, while Labour has said it would likely repeal the Bill.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps this morning said the legislation will demonstrate “life and limb must come first” when strike action takes place.
He told GB News: “We don’t really ever want to have to use that legislation.”
Mr Shapps also said the legislation would bring an end to “forever strikes” after months of rail chaos.
He told Times Radio: “Everyone knows we want to bring these strikes, which in some cases, railways for example, seem to have turned into sort of forever strikes.
“We want to bring this to a close and the Government is bending over backwards to do that.”
And he argued the Bill would bring the UK “into line” with other European countries.
He said: “Other countries like Germany and France and elsewhere do have minimum safety levels in place and we want to make sure that we’re doing the same thing to protect the British people.
“All we’d be doing here is bringing ourselves into line with what is already practised in many other countries.”
But unions have warned the move could see key workers facing the sack if they exercise their right to strike, and that if it becomes law it could “poison industrial relations” and lead to more walkouts.
Trades Union Congress general secretary Paul Nowak said: “This legislation would mean that, when workers democratically vote to strike, they can be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.
“That’s undemocratic, unworkable, and almost certainly illegal.
“Let’s be clear: if passed, this Bill will prolong disputes and poison industrial relations – leading to more frequent strikes.”
The introduction of the Bill comes a day after transport, health and education unions held a series of crisis meetings with Westminster ministers.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay is reportedly considering backdating next year’s NHS staff pay increase as part of efforts to prevent further strikes.