Union talks with the Department for Education about Minimum Service Levels (MSL) for striking workers on strike days in education settings ended today. They have concluded without an agreement, which now opens the door to a consultation process by the Department for Education.
Commenting after the meeting, Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“The attempt to impose further restrictions on our democratic freedoms is shameful. This Government wants to be tough on strikes, but not on the causes of strikes.
“We have an education system on its knees. A deep recruitment and retention crisis, rocketing workloads and falling pay. And thanks to underfunding we have the largest primary class sizes in Europe and secondary class sizes are the highest since records began more than forty years ago. This is clearly unsustainable, but the Government is indifferent to the enormous challenges facing schools and colleges. On the evidence of last week’s Autumn Statement, they have given up.
"The attempt at dialogue was never meaningful. It was disingenuous and cynical. The end of talks was briefed out to the press by Number 10 before the talks ended. Sunak always intended to implement this draconian legislation without consent or mandate.
“The Government cannot stand the fact that the NEU passed the highly restrictive thresholds for strike action not once but twice during the recent pay dispute. They now seek to make the legislation even more severe.
“The proposed MSLs are an affront to those who democratically and legally vote for strike action, forcing a large proportion to go into work on strike days. This is a fundamental attack on the democratic freedoms and rights of school staff. It also demonstrates the Government’s incredible lack of understanding of the provision that schools already ensure is in place for students on strike days.
“This is a policy not becoming of a modern, liberal democracy. We already have some of the most restrictive trade union legislation in Europe. In 2015 Conservative MP David Davis said parts of the Trade Union Bill were more fitting of Franco’s Spain.
“MSL legislation is being rushed through. The time period of just 9 weeks – including the Christmas break - for consultation on the draft regulations is completely inadequate given the number of workplaces and employers covered by these proposals. The legal measures which Keegan wants to impose are unworkable and show a startling ignorance of school settings.
“The proposals have already been questioned by the UN’s International Labour Organisation and make this government an outlier internationally. This will only make the resolution of disputes more difficult and cause further disruption in schools.”