With the anti-strikes bill back in the House of Commons on Monday 22 May, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is calling on Tory MPs to “do the right thing” and oppose it. It’s also holding an ’emergency protest’ outside parliament on the same evening. Numerous UK unions are supporting the protest, including the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), and Unison:
Workers ‘at risk’
The TUC recently warned that the right to strike of “a massive 1 in 5 workers in Britain is at risk because of the bill”. It added:
That means 5.5 million workers in England, Scotland and Wales could be affected by the legislation. Workers in Northern Ireland aren’t subject to the Bill.
Those 5.5 million workers have their right to strike threatened because – if passed unamended – the Bill will mean that when workers lawfully vote to strike in health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning, they could be forced to attend work – and sacked if they don’t comply.
Key speakers at the emergency protest will include TUC general secretary Paul Nowak, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, and others. The event is set to start at 6pm.
The Canary has reported extensively on the anti-strikes bill and the recent spate of industrial action. The ‘Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill‘ would seriously restrict workers’ right to take strike action. Among its critics are European trade unions who argued that the legislation would ‘drag the UK further away from democratic norms’.
In March, a parliamentary committee made up of MPs and lords slammed the bill “for failing to meet human rights obligations”. At the time, TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said:
MPs, Lords and civil liberties groups are queuing up to condemn this draconian Bill. These spiteful new laws are an affront to human rights and are a deliberate attempt to restrict the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.
The government is steamrolling through parliament legislation that will give ministers sweeping new powers to sack workers who take action to win better pay and conditions. The Conservatives are trying to keep people in the dark. But make no mistake – this Bill is undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal. And crucially it will likely poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them.
This nasty Bill should be junked immediately.
The right to strike: ‘do the right thing’
The TUC has accused Rishi Sunak of “attacking workers’ ability to win a fair pay deal at work in the middle of a cost of living crisis”. It added:
whole strikes could be deemed illegal.
The Bill will give ministers the power to impose new minimum service levels through regulation.
But MPs have been given few details on how minimum service levels are intended to operate.
It further noted that:
There has also been criticism from civil liberties organisations, the joint committee on human rights, House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, race and gender equalities groups, employment rights lawyers, politicians around the world – and a whole host of other organisations.
‘Poisoning industrial relations’
Nowak, meanwhile, has said:
Today Conservative MPs must do the right thing and oppose government plans to sack frontline workers for exercising their right to strike.
No one should be sacked for trying to win a better deal at work.
But this draconian legislation would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they could be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.
It’s undemocratic, unworkable and if it gets onto the statute book very likely unlawful. And it will poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them
It’s no surprise that politicians, employers and rights groups are queuing to condemn this spiteful Bill.
Rishi Sunak’s answer to the cost-of-living crisis is making it harder for workers to win a pay rise at work.
It’s time for an urgent rethink. Ministers must step back from the brink, ditch this draconian Bill for good and protect the right to strike.
FBU: resistance ‘sweeping the country’
Speaking ahead of the vote, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said:
MPs must vote down this anti-worker legislation.
The UK already has the most restrictive anti-union laws in the developed world, and the result of this is that we have suffered from falling wages and sharper exploitation.
An inspiring wave of resistance has swept the country in the past year. But instead of negotiating with workers, this government of millionaires is seeking to have key workers sacked and victimised. They want to drive wages down even further so their big business backers can cash in.
There is a growing movement of resistance to this legislation – with at least one devolved administration saying it won’t issue work notices, and the FBU committed to building a mass movement of non-compliance if it becomes law.
We are seeing a workers’ revolt against hard right government with no mandate for its policies. That revolt will continue whatever happens today.
Many other unions, groups, and individuals have also spoken out – including RMT general secretary Mick Lynch:
Full details of the protest, which starts at 6pm on 22 May at Parliament Square, are here.
Featured image via Wikimedia – Michael D Beckwith (Public Domain) and TUC