Exclusive: Government Watchdog Slams Ministers Over Anti-Strike Law
Workers on the picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital in London during a strike by nurses and ambulance staff. Picture date: Monday February 6, 2023.
A powerful watchdog has launched a devastating attack on a proposed new law which would make it harder for workers to go on strike.
The regulatory policy committee (RPC), which analyses new pieces of legislation, said an assessment by ministers of the impact of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill was “not fit for purpose”.
The legislation was introduced to parliament last month and would force NHS staff, firefighters and railway workers to ensure that they are able to provide minimum levels of service to the public during industrial action.
If they failed to do so, they would potentially face the sack.
Both Labour and trade unions have condemned the bill as an attack on the right to take strike action.
The RPC had previously criticised the government for failing to publish an impact assessment (IA) of the bill before MPs voted on it.
That assessment has now been produced, but in a report published today, the watchdog gives it a “red rating” because they say it is not good enough.
“The RPC found that the IA is not-fit-for-purpose and, therefore red rated,” they said.
“The bill will provide powers to introduce minimum service levels during strikes across a range of prospective sectors, with those levels to be set through secondary legislation.
“Our red-rating reflects the insufficient assessment of the impacts of the bill on small and micro businesses as required by the better regulation framework.
“As is our normal practice, we also offer comments on how we think other aspects of the IAs might be improved.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “This is a damning judgement by independent experts on the government’s ‘Sacking Nurses’ Bill.
“Tory ministers have failed utterly to do due diligence on this shoddy, unworkable policy, breaking their own rules and failing to provide evidence for their claims.
“Clearly the government is trying to hide the severe and disproportionate impacts its legislation will have on small businesses.
“It’s little wonder they’re trying to rush this legislation through parliament because not one bit of it stands up to scrutiny. This is a complete dereliction of ministerial duty.”
Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, said: “It was clear from the start that this anti-strikes bill is a total dog’s dinner which will only inflame and prolong disputes.
“Now we can see that it has been so badly thrown together that it has received the worst verdict of any draft law that anyone can remember.
“The government needs to stop wasting time with its attacks on workers’ rights and focus on resolving the issues behind the current wave of strikes.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said further impact assessments on the bill will be published by the government.