Unions vow to fight new government attack on the right to strike

Unions have hit back at reports the government is to threaten the right to strike.

The Sunday Telegraph and Mail on Sunday are reporting the government has said it would bring new legislation “outlawing any strikes that did not provide a guaranteed ‘minimum service’ to limit disruption to passengers”. The papers also says union leaders could be made liable for damages if they failed to honour such a requirement.

The announcement is in response to planned rail strikes in June.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Ministers have spectacularly failed to deal with the cost of living crisis. Now they are trying to distract from their failure by picking a fight with unions. The right to strike is crucial in a free society.

“Threatening the right to strike tilts the balance in the workplace too far towards the employers. And it means workers can’t stand up for decent services and safety at work – or defend their jobs or pay. We will fight these unfair and unworkable proposals to undermine unions and undermine the right to strike. And we will win.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “What we are seeing here is desperate nonsense from the Tories who have chosen to attack working people in our union who kept the railways running every single day of the pandemic.  What the government should be doing is putting in place measures to deal with the Tory cost of living crisis, including ensuring that wages keep pace with inflation.

“It’s laughable to see Grant Shapps scampering off to drip poison in the ears of journalists instead of backing polices to put our railways front and centre of our economic recovery from Covid. He should be ashamed. Frankly the Tories can pass whatever law they wish to deny our members their fundamental rights – our union will defy their unjust and undemocratic laws every step of the way.  The difference between a slave and a worker is the latter’s ability to withdraw their labour.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Any attempt by Grant Shapps to make effective strike action illegal on the railways will be met with the fiercest resistance from RMT and the wider trade union movement. The government need to focus all their efforts on finding a just settlement to this rail dispute, not attack the democratic rights of working people.

“Britain already has the worst trade union rights in Western Europe. And we have not fought tooth and nail for railway workers since our forebears set up the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in 1872, in order to meekly accept a future where our members are prevented from legally withdrawing their labour.”

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