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We will defend the right to strike at all costs

Published date
Make no mistake – this is one of the most pernicious pieces of union-bashing legislation you will ever see.

First published on Left Foot Forward. 


The ongoing Conservative Party psycho-drama has dominated the headlines over the last few weeks.

While it has been good to see Boris Johnson finally held accountable, it’s meant that many important issues have slipped under the radar.

The Strikes Bill returns to parliament today. It won’t get anywhere near the coverage of the vote on the Privileges Committee report, but it should.

Make no mistake – this is one of the most pernicious pieces of union-bashing legislation you will ever see.

And the TUC is by no means alone in saying this.

Over the weekend the UN workers’ rights watchdog, the ILO, demanded that the UK bring trade union rights into line with international law.

In a rare intervention, it instructed UK ministers to “seek technical assistance” from the body and to report back to the ILO in September.

The last time the ILO issued this type of rebuke to the UK was in 1995.

Litany of critics

The spiteful legislation has faced a barrage of criticism from employers, 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 – as well as a whole host of other organisations.

It is no surprise that this Bill has upset and enraged so many.

The UK already has the most restrictive anti-strikes legislation in Western Europe. And these reforms will take the country in an even more draconian direction.

That would 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. 

As the TUC has repeatedly warned the Strikes Bill is undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal.

Far from preventing strikes, the Bill will poison industrial relations and escalate disputes.

And for what? So Rishi Sunak can throw some red meat to his backbenchers and look tough to his ungovernable party.

Next steps

So where do we go from here?

The Strikes Bill is back in the Commons after a series of bruising defeats in the Lords.

The government will whip its MPs to vote down much-needed amendments as they try and fast-track the legislation onto the statute books.

Our challenge remains the same. Unions will continue to fight the Bill at every stage and will not rest until these poisonous reforms are defeated, and if passed into law, repealed by the next Labour government.

Last summer, ministers changed the law to allow agencies to supply employers with workers to fill in for those on strike. Unions are currently challenging the change in courts – with a judgment expected soon.

The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty that is vital for the balance of power in the workplace.

We must defend it at all costs. And as I told a TUC rally last month, we are also very clear that we will stand by any worker who exercises their fundamental right to strike.

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