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Anti-strike legislation – Where are we now?

5 July 2023

As the UK government continues to push through its anti-strike legislation, Nautilus joined other trade unions in London's Parliament Square in opposition to this blatant attack on workers' rights. Robert Murtagh reports

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill aims to curtail the rights of workers to engage in legitimate and democratic strike action.

Although maritime professionals aren't specifically referenced in the Bill, Nautilus is deeply concerned about the sweeping powers the Bill gives to the Secretary of State to restrict the right to strike of maritime professionals at a future date.

The UK government has faced significant criticism for the Bill from inside and outside Parliament. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, a cross party committee made up of Lords and MPs, said the Bill was 'not justified and needed to be re-considered'.

A recent statement by the International Labour Organization – an agency of the UN – stated that the UK needed to ensure 'prospective legislation is in conformity' with international rules on freedom of association.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) described this statement as 'hugely embarrassing' for the government.

While the Bill is likely to pass, the House of Lords has introduced significant amendments removing some of the most pernicious provisions. These amendments were subsequently rejected by MPs on its return to the Commons.

However, as the Bill went back to the Lords for a second time, in a rare move Peers refused to back down, instigating a period known as 'legislative ping-pong' where the Bill looks set to go back and forth between the Commons and the Lords until one side backs down.

Nautilus, working with the TUC, will continue to monitor developments, opposing this legislation and supporting amendments that ensure a greater degree of parliamentary scrutiny, prevent striking workers from facing the sack for engaging in strike action and stopping the duty on unions to force their members to comply with this pernicious legislation.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, SNP and SDLP have consistently voted against the legislation in the Commons, with the DUP in abstention.

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A look ahead to UK party conferences

Nautilus is preparing for a busy autumn period, particularly September and October, as we attend all major UK party conferences to bring the voice of maritime professionals to the heart of politics and government.

Nautilus will be engaging with MPs, lords, other unions, Maritime UK and Unions21 to ensure the priorities of maritime professionals are highlighted, particularly in advance of a general election due to take place at some point in 2024.

We will be arguing for a mandatory seafarers' welfare charter to be implemented before the end of this Parliament, as supported by the cross-party Transport Select Committee (see Telegraph, May/June 2023). The government has committed to a welfare charter in response to the callous actions of P&O Ferries in March 2022, and we will be building support at the party conferences for this charter to be comprehensive, to include action on roster patterns, and most importantly for it to be mandatory.

We will also make the argument for investment in maritime skills – supporting the recommendations of the Maritime Skills Commission that included 100% government SMarT funding to knock down barriers to accessing cadetships. Both Labour and the Conservatives have committed to the growth of the offshore renewables sector, touting the number of jobs this could create. Nautilus will be taking the argument to both parties that investment in maritime skills is critical to unleashing the job creation potential from investment in offshore renewables, and key to supporting coastal communities.

We will continue to highlight the need to grow the UK Ship Register and ensure that any jobs created, particularly in the offshore renewables sector, are accessible to UK based seafarers.

We will build on the recent campaign success to end the Offshore Wind Workers Concession to secure ob and training opportunities for UK-based seafarers, ensuring that these jobs are underpinned by collective bargaining agreements providing good pay and conditions.

Image: Labour Conference 2022 featuring Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Louise Haigh/Nautilus International


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