A controversial anti-strike bill has taken a step toward becoming law as more walkouts are announced.

The government’s proposed Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill would limit the right to strike by imposing minimum service levels.

It would also give employers the legal power to fire workers who disobey a “work notice” forcing them to report to work on days of industrial action.

After receiving a majority of 60 votes from MPs (309 to 249), the statute passed its second reading in parliament.

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It comes as teachers will strike for the first time since 2016 in February and March.

Nurses will also take two more days of industrial action in March, it was disclosed during the Commons discussion on the bill

It was also revealed ambulance workers are expected to declare up to six more strike dates on Wednesday, February 25.

During the Commons debate on the strikes bill, Business Secretary Grant Shapps insisted the legislation “does not seek to ban the right to strike.”

He said: “The government will always defend the principle that workers should be able to withdraw their labour.”

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Former Home Secretary Priti Patel suggested ministers should “look at widening the list of sectors where minimum service standards are needed” as the wave of industrial action continues across the UK.

If the legislation is passed, the government will get the power to set the safety levels for fire, ambulance and rail services in England, Wales and Scotland.

It would also have the control to set minimum levels of service for health, education, nuclear decommissioning and border security – but the business department said ministers “expect to continue to reach voluntary agreements” with these sectors.

READ MORE: THOUSANDS OF UK JUNIOR DOCTORS TO START VOTING MONDAY ON STRIKE ACTION

However, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner described the bill as “one of the most indefensible and foolish pieces of legislation to come before this House in modern times”.

After the National Education Union (NEU) reached the necessary number of members to authorise strike action, thousands of teachers are scheduled to leave their posts in protest of wages.

300,000 members of England and Wales’ largest teaching union participated in a vote for a “fully financed, above-inflation pay boost.”

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The union’s teacher members,of which nine out of ten voted in favour of a strike, exceeded the legal threshold of 50 percent voter turnout needed to authorise labour action.

The NEU said the vote shows teachers are not prepared to “stand by” and see the education service “sacrificed” due to “a toxic mix of low pay and excessive workload”.

The union declared seven days of walkouts in February and March – on 1, 14 and 28 February and 1, 2, 15 and 16 March – with the first day of strikes on 1 February expected to affect 23,000 schools in England and Wales.

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In a statement, Dr. Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, said: “We regret having to take strike action and are willing to enter into negotiations at any time, any place, but this situation cannot go on.”

According to updated Department of Education guidance, agency staff and volunteers could be used to cover classes, with schools expected to remain open where possible and the most vulnerable students given priority.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan described the strike action as “deeply disappointing for children and parents”.

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But headteachers in England will not stage walkouts after the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) union ballot turnout failed to meet the 50 percent legal threshold.

The union said it will contemplate re-running the ballot due to postal disruption.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in England are due to strike on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

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The union has said its members will also walk out on February 6 and 7.

In an increase in industrial action, more NHS trusts in England will strike than on the previous two days of strikes in December, increasing from 55 to 73.

In Wales, 12 health boards and organisations will also go on strike for two days in a row.

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Thousands of hospital appointments and operations were cancelled as a result of two days of strike action by nurses in trusts across England and Wales in December.

During the strike, the health service is expected to operate on a bank holiday basis in many areas.

Downing Street called the announcement of further strike dates by nurses “deeply regrettable”.

But RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said nurses are taking the measures “with a heavy heart”.

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“My olive branch to the government – asking them to meet me halfway and begin negotiations – is still there. They should grab it,” she said in a statement.

The RCN had initially demanded a pay increase of up to 19 percent to cover soaring inflation and falls in real-term wages over the past decade.

But previous this month, Ms. Cullen said she could agree to take a pay rise of about 10 percent to end its ongoing dispute with the government.

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Elsewhere, the GMB union is likely to declare further ambulance worker strike dates this Wednesday, Sky News understands.

Up to six more dates are being discussed after talks with Health Secretary Steve Barclay last week broke down.

The government lasts to insist that pay claims are high-priced and is sticking to its confidence that wage rises should be decided by pay review bodies.

Source: Sky News

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