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Strikes in Essential Services: Time for further protection for the public?

Strikes in Essential Services: Time for further protection for the public?
iStock/william87

Strikes in the essential services are banned in most major Western economies – but not in the UK. With co-ordinated strike action now being threatened by public sector unions, the Government should consider amending the Trade Union Act 2016 to further protect the public from the damage done by strike action writes Nicholas Finney in Strikes in the Essential Services: time for further protection for the public?published on Monday 18 September by the Centre for Policy Studies.

For it is the most vulnerable who are badly affected by strike action: mothers with young children, the sick, the elderly and those on low wages (who are less likely to be able to afford, for example, private transport in the case of a rail strike).

Based on a detailed analysis of international attitudes to strikes in essential services, Finney warns that failure to protect the general public from the social and economic damage of strike action could lead to calls for the binding prohibition of strikes in the essential services. He recommends, before reaching that stage:

  • allowing agency workers to be used as a last resort so that government agencies (such as the NHS) which are responsible for ensuring the continuation of minimum services in the case of a strike can fulfil their obligations to the public
  • starting discussions with the TUC to seek to incorporate stronger voluntary restraint by Trade Unions taking strike action
  • expanding the definition of “important public services” in the Trade Union Act 2016 so that it mirrors that of “essential public services” in most EU countries
  • index link the level of financial penalties applied to Trade Unions in the event of unlawful action
  • greater consultation between government, trade unions, private and public sector employers and consumer groups 

Nicholas Finney OBE - Thursday 14th September 2017