Minimum service legislation will lead to more disputes

Minimum service legislation will lead to more disputes

8 December 2023

RMT Press Office:

Government admits rail minimum service legislation will lead to more disputes and jeopardise safety.

RAIL UNION RMT revealed today that the government’s own impact assessment for the regulations covering the railway minimum service regulations admitted that it would worsen industrial relations and threaten safety.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said that the government’s own assessment of its own legislation states that not only will there be worsening industrial relations, more strikes and localised disputes but passenger safety could also be compromised through the chaos of imposing new ways of working in safety critical industry.  

“The assessment also highlights the real agenda behind these reforms is so bosses can reduce workers’ wages and accelerate the introduction of reforms such as driver only trains which will worsen passenger safety and accessibility.”

“Although these draconian measures are now law, the TUC Special Congress tomorrow (Saturday) will signal the start of the industrial struggle against Minimum service levels and any employer who seeks to deploy work notices against our members will find themselves in perpetual disputes with RMT,” he said.



Notes for editors 


The governments impact assessment for the rail regulations for MSLs was only published on the last day of the legislation in the Lords on Wednesday of this week.


Full extracts to support the press release below


227. “Overall, introducing MSLs for passenger rail services will likely put further strain on 

relations between unions and employers. Motions have been passed actively seeking to 

oppose the introduction of MSLs across sectors at the recent Trade Unions’ Congress 

(TUC) in September 2023 including by rail trade unions.158 This indicates that these MSLs 

may result in more adverse impacts in the short to medium term, such as an increased 

frequency of strikes for each dispute to compensate for the reduced impact of each strike, 

localised disputes where employers seek to dismiss employees non-compliant with work 

notices or a rapid escalation in the use of ASOS (Action Short of Strike)


228. Light rail stakeholders in particular have raised concerns around safety risks of 

implementing an MSL. Whist the policy will allow for a higher service level on strike days, it 

will still be lower than levels on non-strike days, creating overcrowding risks. For many light 

rail systems there are no barriers (such as ticket gates) to passengers accessing the 

system. This makes it difficult for these systems to control the number of people on board, 

making overcrowding risks particularly relevant if strikes coincide with large events where 

patronage is higher than average. 


232. We do not expect this proposal to directly impact innovation or impact it substantially. For instance, the industry has been looking into Driver Only Operation/Driver Controlled 

Operation which are already in place on parts of the network. It is possible that minimum 

service levels (MSLs) will create impetus to accelerate progress on this kind of 

technological change in the industry, although such changes depend on many other 

practical, operational and financial factors. Additionally, unforeseen innovation is not 

anticipated to materially affect the assessments provided in this impact assessment.


The previous Regulatory Policy Committee view of the rail regulations impact assessment can be found here.



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