Bill to ensure “minimum security levels” during the introduction of industrial action

The government is due to table new legislation for “minimum safety levels” in industrial action in parliament on Tuesday.

The bill would ensure vital public services maintain a “basic function” when workers go on strike, the business department previously said.

In fact, we never want to have to apply this legislationBusiness Secretary Grant Shapps

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said the legislation will show that “life and limb must come first” when strikes occur.

He told GB News: “We never really want to have to apply this legislation.”

The proposals have prompted threats of legal challenges, while Labor has said it is likely to overturn the legislation.

The bill comes a day after crisis talks between ministers and unions failed to resolve industrial disputes between nurses, teachers and railway workers.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay is considering backdating next year’s pay rise for NHS staff to prevent further strikes, multiple reports suggest.


Health Secretary Steve Barclay spoke in the House of Commons after his meeting with union officials on Monday (Andy Bailey/UK Parliament/PA)

Mr Barclay used a meeting with healthcare unions on Monday to suggest improvements in efficiency and productivity in healthcare could “free up additional funds” to lead to an increased bid for spring 2023/24 payrolls.

Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, said the health secretary “acknowledged” during the talks that avoiding payroll strikes next year would mean “fallback” to the current pay year.

She envisages that the collective agreement for 2023/24 to be agreed in April could be applied retrospectively to the last quarter of the 2022/23 financial year.

Ms Gorton said the discussion represented a “change of tone” by the UK government as wages discussions were firmly on the table after months of ministers refusing to go beyond the recommendations of the independent wage inspection bodies.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, the Unison official said: “There was confirmation from the Foreign Secretary (Steve Barclay) that, to use his words, any resolution of the dispute now or the prevention of further disputes for salaries of the next year, would be associated with a recourse to the current salary year.”

Unions said no “tangible offer” had been made and Ms Gorton called for “cold hard money” to be offered so members could be consulted on ending industrial action.

Several reports suggest unions are bringing forward calls for the 2023/24 agreement to be backdated to January to provide a bigger boost for 2022/23.


Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said a retrospective offer would depend on the amount presented (Kirsty O’Connor/PA).

The Daily Telegraph, citing a source close to Mr Barclay, said the Health Secretary had “agreed to look at both this idea and proposals for a one-off payment”.

Referring to a one-off payment, an ally of Mr Barclay said he “listened to what (they) had to say and agreed to take it away”.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea, asked on BBC Newsnight if a retrospective salary offer was anything, said: “It wasn’t put before us.

“Everything would have to depend on what the actual numbers are when you look at them over a year.

“If we were talking about a relatively small sum for 2023/24 and that retrospectively, then no, I don’t think that would be enough.”

The government had previously refused to discuss wages for nurses and other public sector workers, insisting these were matters for the independent wage verification bodies, but over the weekend Mr Sunak hinted at a move.

While there were positive voices in some circles about the talks, other unions were outraged at the lack of perceived progress.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unite criticized the meeting with Mr Barclay, accusing ministers of “intransigence”.

Discussions in Whitehall were not enough to prevent further strikes in the health sector.

Physiotherapists also said they would announce industrial action dates later this week despite the talks, while the GMB union said the ambulance strikes would go ahead as planned on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union will stage a strike in primary, special and early years schools. DVSA driving examiners strike continues in London, South East, South Wales and South West, Rural Payments Agency (RPA) continue their strike and London bus workers at Abellio are on strike.

Not only did health officials meet with ministers on Monday, but a series of cross-sectoral talks took place in Westminster as the UK government grapples with industrial action amid high inflation.

Teachers’ unions met with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan before announcing this week whether their members would go on strike.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), urged ministers to come up with “real and concrete proposals very quickly” to avoid possible strikes this year.

Railway Minister Huw Merriman called train workers after ongoing measures paralyzed the service, with just one in five trains running between Tuesday and Saturday.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch dodged questions about the progress of rail talks but said more talks were taking place. Bill to ensure “minimum security levels” during the introduction of industrial action

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