The Scottish Government has called for Scotland to be excluded from the controversial Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill after attacking the proposed legislation. The “wholly unwelcome” Bill was introduced to Parliament on 20 October. It contains provisions to agree or impose minimum service levels on transport services during strikes.
In a letter to the UK Government, Scottish Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth (pictured) reiterated that the Scottish Government “will not support any proposals that seek to undermine legitimate trade union activity.”
Under the proposed legislation, if minimum service levels on specified transport services are not met during strike action, unions will forfeit their protection from damage claims from employers. In addition, employees required to work to deliver the minimum service level but who strike will lose their automatic unfair dismissal protection.
In her letter, Ms Gilruth says that the Bill “infringes on workers’ fundamental employment rights.” The minister adds that she is “particularly concerned” that it “would appear to grant powers to the UK Secretary of State [for Transport] to impose minimum service levels on transport operators and trade unions in Scotland.”
The proposed legislation “does not respect the Scottish Government’s Fair Work principles of an effective voice, fulfilment, opportunity, respect and security,” Ms Gilruth adds. “This would be an unacceptable erosion of the Scottish Government’s devolved responsibility for transport in Scotland.”
Her intervention on behalf of the Scottish Government follows an excoriation of the controversial Bill by Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer.
On the day it was introduced, Sir Kier told a Trade Unions Congress gathering that Labour “unequivocally” supports the right to strike and that the party will “oppose and repeal” any legislation requiring minimum transport service levels. Unions RMT and Unite have also attacked the Bill.
The Scottish Government says that work should be done with transport operators and trade unions “to reach fair and reasonable settlements respecting the legitimate interest of workers and transport organisations.” The approach in the Bill is instead “very likely to inflame rather than help resolve legitimate industrial disputes” and will go contrary to passengers’ interests, Ms Gilruth continues.
In conclusion, she has called for the UK Government to exclude Scotland from the Bill’s scope, or “better still,” drop the proposed legislation altogether.