The UK Parliament Transport Committee has released a new report setting out nine tests for the UK Government when it reveals how minimum service laws covering the period of industrial action will be introduced.
Though the government’s Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023, which the RMT has described as “anti-union”, became law in July 2023, the Department for Transport (DfT) has yet to reveal how the new regulations would work in practice, meaning the committee chose to publish guidance for the regulations after its inquiry into the law.
Committee Chair Iain Stewart MP discussed the feedback heard from members of the rail industry: “We consistently heard that they were waiting for clarity from the government on how minimum service levels might be set, how routes should be prioritised, how safety could be guaranteed and which types of staff might be needed.
“It became apparent that the government needs to make the first move. Only then will stakeholders be able to feedback on the practicalities, so that regulations can be fine-tuned and plans drawn up.”
The nine criteria for regulations outlined by the committee include that safety on the rail networks must be prioritised, that passengers with access needs must not receive a lesser support service due to strikes and that the minimum service level be flexible enough to apply to different strike patterns.
The committee also recommended that the DfT use another set of criteria to determine the success of regulations after implementation, with a key focus being ensuring that strikes are neither prolonged nor increased by them and that passengers are more satisfied than they are currently.
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Highlighting this section of the committee’s report, the RMT union responded to the release by warning that the laws could worsen industrial relations.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “Instead of attacking workers right to strike, the government should spend its energy on resolving the national rail disputes.
“We have reached a settlement in Scotland and Wales, which demonstrates that the real reason for the current dispute is the union-busting agenda of the UK government.”
The government’s legislation comes amid a long period of industrial action across the UK rail network as RMT calls on rail operators to provide better conditions and pay for staff.