Minimum Service Levels Won’t Save Christmas for the Public Sector

Responding to the plan to introduce Minimum Service Levels (MSLs) for rail workers, ambulance staff and border security over the Christmas period, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has warned that the legislation will have little effect.

The trade association for the professional recruitment sector has highlighted that previous repeals of Article 7 of the Conduct Regulations in order to allow for agency workers to replace striking staff didn’t ease pressure due to the limited take up from recruiters and workers alike.

Tania Bowers, Global Public Policy Director at APSCo, comments: “While Minimum Service Levels are, on paper, a potential means to prevent the major disruption to public services that we’ve seen previously during strikes, there are flaws that will prevent this action having a significant impact. As we saw when Regulation 7 was previously repealed during strikes, only a limited number of agency workers were willing to stand in for their peers on the picket line and few recruiters were keen to cross this line as well.

“There’s also the added issue that it is not easy to replace staff on strike in most of the professions that are being impacted. The strict compliance checks required, and the often-short notice periods of resourcing needs, makes it increasingly difficult for those willing to fill in for striking workers to do so.

“The fact that MSLs were also referenced in the King’s first official speech this week does show that the Government is keen to prevent strike action from having a detrimental impact, but the decision to repeal Regulation 7 should only be taken following thorough consultation with relevant stakeholders to make it work. We also can’t ignore the fact that the resourcing issues in these sectors will not simply be resolved by making strike action difficult. The crux of the issue is the significant skills shortages in the likes of healthcare and other remits which urgently needs addressing or we could see this issue exacerbated as more individuals choose to leave these professions for better opportunities elsewhere.”