Thank you for your correspondence regarding minimum service laws.
Workers’ ability to organise and work collectively is a fundamental part of our free society and of a free market. Unfortunately, some sectors of the economy exercise an undue influence because so many of us are reliant upon them for a basic service.
Trade union laws are designed to support an effective and collaborative approach to resolving industrial disputes. While the Government and I continue to support the right to strike, this should always be a last resort. As you may be aware, the Government is not responsible for decisions on pay. Well-established independent pay review process is the right way to set public sector pay – it provides independent, expert advice and is a neutral process in which all parties play a role.
A balance must be struck between giving workers a fair and reasonable settlement and taking steps to continue to bring down inflation and protect households’ budgets. In this time of economic difficulties, inflation-matching pay awards that many of the unions are demanding will make the fight against inflation more challenging, risking interest rates, mortgage payments and bills rising for people as a result. This would erode the value of any pay increase for public sector workers and hurt households across the country.
The rights of some workers to strike must be balanced against the rights of the wider public to get on with their daily lives. Strikes can, and do, cause significant disruption. That is particularly the case when they take place in important public services such as transport or education. It cannot be right that trade unions can, as we saw in the case of the recent rail strikes, seek to hold the country to ransom if their demands are not met.
The Government has a duty to the public to ensure their safety, protect their access to vital public services, and help them go about their daily lives.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me.
EDWARD LEIGH MP