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TUC - Peers must “stand firm” and oppose “pernicious” government plans to sack workers for exercising their right to strike
The TUC has today (Thursday) urged peers to “stand firm” and oppose government plans to sack frontline workers for exercising their right to strike.
- Legislation returns to the House of Lords today (Thursday)
- UK government set to be hauled in front of ILO this weekend to answer for its attacks on the right to strike and trade union democracy
The call comes as the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is set to be debated in the House of Lords today.
Peers voted for amendments to stop workers being sacked for striking when the Bill was in the Lords last month – but Conservative MPs overturned the amendments when the legislation returned to the Commons.
If passed without the amendment, 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.
The UK’s actions have already come under scrutiny from international organisations.
This weekend, the UK government is being hauled in front of the ILO’s top supervisory body, the Committee on the Application of Standards, to account for its adherence to its union freedom rules and answer for its attacks on the right to strike and trade union democracy.
1 in 5 workers could lose their right to strike
The TUC says the Conservative government must drop the Strikes Bill in its entirety and protect the right to strike.
The union body 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.
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.
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.
And the EHRC recently warned that the legislation could see all striking workers in affected sectors losing their unfair dismissal protection as 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.
The Bill has faced a barrage of criticism – including from employer groups.
- The Rail Partners warned that “operators could find themselves having too few staff to run a normal service following industrial action” – adding that the “situation would be even more acute if dismissal procedures were followed with critical staff, including train drivers”
- NHS providers said “this Bill risks damaging relationships in the NHS between trust leaders and their staff, and between trust leaders and local union representatives at a particularly fraught time, without addressing any of the issues underlying current strike action”.
- And CIPD warned of the risk “of low morale and performance, individual disputes and high staff turnover and sickness absence” – adding “these can also have a damaging impact on the level and quality of public services”.
The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee recently criticised the Bill for giving blanket powers to UK ministers while providing virtually no detail.
The government’s own impact assessment on minimum service levels in transport suggested that increase the frequency of strikes and worsen industrial relations.
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.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:
“Last month, peers overwhelmingly rejected the government’s brazen attack on the right to strike.
“They must stand firm today – and oppose the Conservative government’s pernicious plans once more.
“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 is very likely to breach our commitments under international law. And it will poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them.
“Rishi Sunak’s answer to the cost-of-living crisis is making it harder for workers to win a pay rise.
“It's time to ditch this spiteful Bill for good and protect the right to strike.”
- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.
TUC press office
020 7467 1248
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