Government must do more to protect the public from strikes

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


  1. Nicholas Finney has spent much of a distinguished career as an industrial relations expert. He has acted as the employers’ collective negotiator in both the Dairy Industry and the Docks Industry where he saw out the ending of the National Dock Labour Scheme. He has contributed to policy on Waterfront Labour reforms in Australia and is known for his extensive Maritime expertise. He was awarded the OBE in 1989 for his contribution to the Port Transport Industry. Latterly he looks after the research programmes on freight and the supply chain for the Independent Transport Commission.
  1. To download a copy of “Strikes in Essential Services: Time for Further Protection for the Public?” click here.
  1. The Centre for Policy Studies was founded in 1974 by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph and develops and promotes policies to limit the role of the state, to encourage enterprise, and to enable the institutions of society to flourish.

Nick Finney
0777 444 8671
[email protected]

Tim Knox
0790 656 2202
[email protected]

Emma Revell
Communications Officer
020 7222 4488
[email protected]

Date Added: Monday 18th September 2017