After Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak promised a crackdown on unions, and we’ve now had both as PM, who’s surprised?
Entering 2023, after months of industrial action, Sunak’s government is attempting to bring strikes to an end by making any attempt at them illegal, or lose their purpose.
The day that Truss resigned as PM, the Transports Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill had passed its first reading. Now Sunak plans to continue pushing this bill, forcing unions to provide a “minimum level of service” to the public. Considering that the impact of strikes is reliant on their disruption, any legal strike action would become ineffective for unions.
As well as this, the bill will reduce the time limit of strike action by six months and increase the notice period unions must give before striking from 14 days to 28.
Sunak claims that he is attempting to balance the right to strike with individuals’ right to not have their lives disrupted. Under this bill, employers will be able to sack employees who strike, and sue unions, if these minimum levels of service are not met. Whilst the government claims that it does not want to punish striking workers, it will allow their employers to do so.
The minimum level of service can be negotiated between unions and the government, although ministers get the final say if an agreement isn’t met.
Impact in Scotland
Scottish ministers opposed the bill introduced under Truss, branding it “wholly unwelcome” in Scotland, and urged the UK government to exclude Scotland from the legislation. As the bill has continued under Sunak, Deputy Westminster leader for the SNP Mhairi Black has called the bill “immoral” and claimed that anti-trade union laws would be scrapped in an independent Scotland.
She also claims that the SNP has repeatedly called for employment powers to become a devolved matter. Unless this happens, Scottish workers will be hit just as hard by this bill as workers south of the border.
Both Labour and the SNP have condemned this legislation, as Keir Starmer, the man who sacked his transport secretary for appearing on an RMT picket line, announced that Labour “unequivocally” supports the right to strike. He claims that as Prime Minister, he would repeal this legislation and that he doesn’t think that it will be effective in ending disruption.
Mick Lynch from the RMT has claimed that the law will “suppress the freedoms of people in Britain, the right to protest and the right to campaign against poverty.” He also claims that the government is set on “making the trade unions the bogeymen of British society and making an enemy of working people.”
The government has dropped plans for the original bill due to fear of legal action. An impact assessment, published last year, shows that these plans could push unions to strike even more often. This has been noticed as teachers in England and Wales have voted to strike since the bill was introduced.
Featured Image Credit: RMT
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