Government accused of attempting to fast track new law on strikes


he Government is being accused of attempting to “steamroller” through new legislation on strikes amid mounting anger over the “spiteful” measure.

A Bill on ensuring minimum levels of service during industrial action will receive its Second Reading in Parliament on Monday as part of ministers’ response to months of strikes and more walkouts due in the coming weeks.

Labour said it will oppose the legislation and any attempts to fast track it through Parliament without proper scrutiny.

The TUC said the planned law would give ministers sweeping new powers that restrict the right to strike.

This draconian Bill is a full-frontal attack on the right to strike

If passed, it will mean that when workers democratically and lawfully vote to strike in health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning, they can be forced to work and sacked if they do not comply, said the union organisation.

The TUC called on MPs of all parties to reject the “spiteful” legislation, which it says is “shortcutting” normal scrutiny procedures.

Consultations on how the regulations will work have not been published, and parliamentarians have been given no detail on how minimum service levels are intended to operate, and the Government has not yet published an impact assessment for the Bill, said the TUC.

Unions embroiled in bitter disputes in sectors including the NHS, civil service and railways say the new legislation will do nothing to help achieve a breakthrough and will only make matters worse.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “This draconian Bill is a full-frontal attack on the right to strike and the Government is trying to steamroller it through parliament, without proper consultation or scrutiny.

“This spiteful legislation would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they can be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.

“Make no mistake, this is undemocratic, unworkable and likely illegal and it will do nothing to solve the current disputes across the economy but only make matters worse.

“Workers are facing a living standards emergency, but with inflation running at over 10%, ministers are making it harder for working people to secure better pay and conditions.

“Instead of scheming up new ways to attack the right to strike, ministers should get pay rising across the economy – starting with a decent pay rise for workers across the public sector.”

Angela Rayner, Labour deputy leader and shadow secretary of state for the future of work, said: “Today’s Conservative Party has resorted to threatening nurses with the sack because they can’t stomach negotiation.

“Instead of focusing on cleaning up the economic mess they’ve made, Rishi Sunak is lashing out at working people right across Britain today to distract from his weak and divided Government. He’s costing the public dearly.

“This shoddy, unworkable Bill won’t do a thing to help working people or avoid strikes. Labour will be opposing this assault on common sense that would see fundamental British freedoms ripped up in order to distract from the crisis the Tories have inflicted on our country.

“Instead of getting round the negotiating table to resolve disputes, they’re pouring petrol on the fire.”

The Prime Minister has said he believes it is important to protect ordinary working people’s access to life-saving healthcare and allow them to go about their lives free from that type of disruption, adding: “Which is why we’re introducing new laws – minimum safety levels – which will ensure that, in areas like ambulances or fire, that when there are strikes, people can still rely on a basic level of emergency service.

“I think that’s a right, responsible and reasonable thing to do in common with many other countries and we’re going to bring forward those laws shortly.”

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