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  • TUC condemns Tory “wrecking ball” to right to strike and says it won’t rest until the legislation is repealed
  • Union body urges employers to do “everything in their power” to avoid using this counterproductive legislation to settle disputes

The TUC has today (Tuesday) vowed to fight the anti-strike bill “tooth and nail” as the legislation passed its final parliamentary stage.

The union body said the Conservatives were threatening to “take a wrecking ball” to the fundamental right to strike – adding that “unions won’t rest” until the legislation is repealed.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill will soon receive Royal Assent and make its way onto the statute book as the legislation passed in the House of Lords – after several previous defeats.

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.

1 in 5 workers

TUC research found a massive 1 in 5 workers in Britain – or 5.5 million workers - are at risk of having their right to strike undermined. The legislation gives ministers sweeping powers to impose strike restrictions in any service within those extremely broad sectors.

As a result, the 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.

The UK’s actions have already come under scrutiny from international organisations. The UN workers’ rights watchdog, the ILO, recently slapped down the UK government over its anti-union agenda and demanded it respect international law.  

The Bill will give ministers the power to impose new minimum service levels through regulation, but ministers have given few details on how they intend minimum service levels  to operate.

Humiliating defeat

The government is rushing this latest legislation onto the statute book just days after a “humiliating defeat” on its agency worker regulations – as the High Court deemed the regulations unlawful.

The “strike-breaking” regulations were brought in last summer and allow agencies to supply employers with workers to fill in for those on strike.  

The High Court ruled that the then Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, failed to consult unions, as required by the Employment Agencies Act 1973 – quashing the 2022 changes.

The TUC has accused the government of adopting the same “reckless approach” with its anti-strike bill.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“The Conservatives are threatening to take a wrecking ball to our fundamental right to strike.

“No one should be sacked for trying to win better pay and conditions at work – especially in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. But that is exactly what this draconian legislation will allow.

“These new laws will give ministers the power to snatch away the right to strike from a massive 1 in 5 workers – that’s 5.5 million people.

Commenting on the ongoing campaign against the bill, Paul added:

“Make no mistake. The TUC will fight this pernicious legislation tooth and nail – exploring all options including legal routes.

“We won’t stand by and let workers get sacked for defending their pay and conditions. And we won’t rest until this bill has been repealed.

“It’s unworkable, undemocratic and almost certainly in breach of international law.

“After the government’s humiliating defeat in the High Court over its unlawful attempt to undermine the right to strike, ministers should spare themselves further embarrassment.

"Every employer must reject this blatant attempt at union busting. That means doing everything in their power to avoid using this counterproductive legislation – it will only poison industrial relations and drag out disputes.

“Our message is loud and clear. The entire trade union movement will rally behind any worker sacked for exercising their fundamental right to strike.”

On Labour’s plans to repeal the legislation in its first 100 days, Paul said:

“The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty – Labour gets this. That’s why they have done the right thing and promised to repeal this nasty legislation at the earliest opportunity.”

Editors note

- 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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