Unions gear up to fight public transport strike restrictions

A lobby outside Parliament against the Trade Union Bill, 2015

Unions are gearing up to fight Tory plans to restrict strikes on public transport.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has prepared a Bill to uphold the “basic right” of commuters to get to work for today’s Queen’s Speech. The move would ensure a minimum level on transport during strikes and would, he says, stop unions holding passengers “to ransom”.

Unions are at 12.30pm to protest outside Parliament in a demonstration to coincide with the Queen’s Speech and supported by the Trade Union Co-Ordinating Group.

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: “This is nothing less than a declaration of war on transport workers. No trade unionist takes industrial action lightly, but we need that option to prevents bad employers riding roughshod over our working conditions and safety. This shows that this right wing and authoritarian Tory government sees transport workers as the enemy. Not stakeholders.

“It’s funny how the Tory party are all in favour of de-regulation, until it comes to unions, where they enforce ever more draconian laws to stop working people holding bad bosses to account. However, I can tell you that if the employers were to be honest, they won’t want this as it will cause more industrial unrest not less.

“Shapps tells us his law will force our members to provide a ‘bare-bones service’ during industrial action. Yet the number of passengers won’t go down. So we’ll end up with mass overcrowding on platforms and on board trains when our railway is already at capacity. Our members’ first duty is to keep passengers safe. They will not be party to the dangerous running of services.

“Our members love our industry. ASLEF’s priority is to improve the lives of our members and ensure a successful, growing and reliable railway. We never want to disrupt passengers. But if the Transport Secretary and this nasty Tory government want to start a war with rail staff, our members are more than prepared to fight it and win.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It hasn’t taken long for the true colours of this new Tory government to emerge. Banning strikes and denying workers the basic human right to withdraw their labour has been the hallmark of hard right, authoritarian regimes throughout history.

“Instead of attacking rail workers fighting to defend safety and disabled access any responsible government would be tackling the scandal of private profiteering on Britain’s railways which has reduced services to chaos.

“RMT will fight any plans to deny out members their basic human rights.”

Unite assistant general secretary for transport Diana Holland said: “These proposals miss the fundamental point that workers only ever take industrial action as a last resort. This is about generating headlines rather than improving services to the general public.

“Commuters will know from bitter experience that Shapps’ idea of workers being forced to operate a ‘bare bones’ service could be worse than useless and potentially dangerous.

“Already workers who intend to take industrial action are required to jump through a huge number of legal hoops in order to be able to take legal action.

“There are already additional legal restrictions in place concerning London bus services which makes it even more difficult for those workers to take industrial action. So any further restrictions on the right to strike are entirely unnecessary.

“Industrial disputes occur for a variety of reasons, for example over safety which is equally about protecting the travelling public as it is about protecting the workers themselves.”

The CWU tweeted: “We already have the worst anti-union laws in the world and in their first week of a majority government they want more. Solidarity with our friends at @ASLEFunion  @RMTunion @TSSAunion – we will campaign with you against this all the way.”

And PCS tweeted: “PCS sends #solidarity to transport unions whose rights are already under threat by the Tories and urges people to support the demo on Thursday #AnInjuryToOne.”

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