I believe in a valued workforce and fair pay. For the public sector, we have independent mechanisms to determine annual pay rises, but sometimes agreement cannot be easily reached with trade unions and in some cases, it feels like there is a wider political agenda at play. I note that almost without fail, while the Conservatives are in government, Labour politicians support every industrial dispute going, regardless of the merits or otherwise of any individual strike.
Over the last couple of years, some protracted industrial disputes have had a damaging impact on our country, adversely affecting many Crawley residents. As I write, it looks like welcome progress has been made in resolving one of those disputes, with the RMT that has caused longstanding travel misery and undermined confidence in using our railways.
There must always be a fair balance to strike, but the country cannot be continually held to ransom by left-wing union leadership when fair and reasonable pay talks exist. Therefore, I welcome that minimum service level regulations for rail workers, ambulance staff and border security staff will be laid in parliament. This seeks to mitigate disruption and ensure vital public services can continue if strikes are called. It is important to note that it does not stop the right to strike.
The legislation brings us in line with countries like France, Italy, Spain, and the US where public services reliably continue during strikes. The International Labour Organisation also recognises Minimum Service Levels as a sensible solution to protect the public from serious strike consequences.
The minimum service levels are designed to be effective and proportionate by balancing the ability to take strike action with ensuring borders can remain secure, people can make important journeys including accessing work, education, and healthcare, and people can get the emergency care they need. This comes ahead of further consultations to introduce minimum service levels for education, other NHS staff, and fire services.
Public services are important and the people delivering them make them what they are, but we need better balance so that the impact of strike action is fairer and proportionate.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
15th November 2023