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Minimum Service Levels consultation: education services

TUC response
Report type
Consultation response
Issue date

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

TUC is strongly opposed to the introduction of minimum service levels (MSLs) in education that arise from the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023. The Strikes Act is unfair, undemocratic, and likely in breach of our international legal commitments.

We note the recent comments of the International Labour Organisation’s Committee on the Application of Standards cautioning the government to ensure its legislation is in line with ILO conventions. The TUC has submitted evidence to the ILO Committee of Experts laying out our criticism and concerns about the legislation, including its failure to adhere to ILO standards.  It is therefore deeply disappointing that the government proposes proceeding with minimum service levels in education that could deny thousands of teachers the right to strike.

The TUC believes minimum service levels are unacceptable in the UK given the highly restrictive anti-strike laws already in place. The Joint Committee on Human Rights warned “(i)n our view, the Government has not adequately made the case that this Bill meets the UK’s human rights obligations”. [1]

The introduction of minimum levels of service in education services would:

  1. place severe and unacceptable restrictions on the fundamental right of a worker to take industrial action to defend their pay and conditions.
  2. be draconian: it could lead to individual workers being sacked for taking part in industrial action that was supported in a democratic process. Trade unions could face large damages.
  3. be counter-productive: the government’s own analysis has warned that minimum service levels could lead to more strikes.
  4. disproportionately affect women workers. Education workers are majority female and therefore more women than men are likely to be subjected to work notices and have their right to strike unfairly curtailed.

Minimum service levels in education services will do nothing to help resolve current or future industrial disputes. Being threatened with the sack for exercising a fundamental right to strike will only demoralise and disenfranchise more of the education workforce and poison industrial relations.

The government’s impact assessment in education identifies that the financial and administrative impact on education employers is likely to be significant. The government estimates legal costs to education employers of £18.2m for seeking ‘legal advice as part of the familiarisation process’. , In the government’s own estimate, MSLs ‘would require approximately 88,000 consultations to take place (on the basis of 22,000 schools and four unions per school)’ in that part of the education sector alone, and up to 156,000 consultations across schools and colleges if both teaching and support staff unions were to strike in the same year.  This will place an unacceptable strain on the budgets of trade unions and the budgets of schools and colleges at a time when money is already tight

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