Government propose legislation to ensure 40% service levels during train strikes

Image above: A shuttered Tube station during a strike

Train, ambulance and Border Force services to be covered by new legislation

Train operators in the UK will soon be compelled to ensure that at least 40% of a standard timetable remains operational on strike days. The proposed law, introduced to Parliament on Tuesday (7 November), aims to mitigate the disruptions caused by strikes across the transport sector.

The minimum service level regulations have been designed to safeguard “certain priority routes” and maintain essential transportation services, but it remains unclear which specific journeys will be covered.

The Government has announced similar rules will be extended to Border Force, requiring them to maintain staffing levels that ensure their effectiveness remains consistent during strikes. Ambulance services in England will be also subject to minimum service regulations.

The UK has witnessed a series of strikes in various sectors, including rail, education, and healthcare, driven by discontent over the failure of wages to keep pace with rising inflation and changes to  working conditions. These strikes have resulted in significant disruptions across England and Wales.

The Government says implementing minimum service levels is a necessary step to ensure that essential public services continue to function during strikes. They describe these measures as “effective and proportionate”. Critics describe the move as cracking down on dissent and an attack on the fundamental democratic right to protest.

The move comes after the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act earlier this year, which faced strong opposition from trade unions. Unions argue that such regulations are unworkable and threaten the right to strike.

Image above: Trains at Northfields Train Depot

Unions decry plans as “undemocratic”

Maryam Eslamdoust, head of the TSSA transport union, said the legislation would not work and would only “inflame industrial tensions”. She added:

“Moreover, it’s undemocratic and a direct attack on the right to strike which is at the heart of British democracy.”

Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT union, said:

“We believe employers have the discretion not to issue minimum service work notices and, as such, we are calling on them not to issue them.

“Any employer that seeks to issue a work notice will find themselves in a further dispute with my union.”

GMB, Unison and Unite also criticised the measures, arguing they would not solve the problems in the NHS.

Labour, which has said it would repeal the legislation, said the Government was “getting their excuses in early for Christmas”.