6th April 2023 by https://wrp.org.uk/
LEADING employment lawyers are to issue yet another warning that the Tory government’s new Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill will give ministers ‘unfettered power’ to restrict the right to strike.
In a joint statement, the legal specialists are to say the new legislation will make Britain ‘an outlier’ on strike laws compared to other European, Western democracies.
Those adding their names to the statement include: Alan Bogg, Professor of Labour Law, University of Bristol, Keith Ewing, Professor of Public Law, King’s College London, and Ruth Dukes, Professor of Labour Law, University of Glasgow
The lawyers say that ‘The legislation gives a Secretary of State a largely unfettered power to determine what a minimum level of service should be in a particular service, and consequently the circumstances in which and the extent to which workers in these sectors can lawfully exercise their freedom to strike.’
The lawyers say: ‘The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill would place an unacceptable restriction on a worker’s right to take strike action to defend their terms and conditions of employment. It adds to an existing body of highly restrictive laws on strikes, including the Trade Union Act 2016.
‘It would make Great Britain an outlier among comparable countries. If ministers are keen to learn from overseas, a more promising place to start would be the creation of a culture of social dialogue and balanced cooperation through the introduction of sector-wide collective bargaining, together with the clear legal recognition of a positive right to strike.’
Highlighting the strain the Bill will put on industrial relations, the lawyers say: ‘Trade unions will be required by an employer acting with the full authority of the state behind them to take steps actively to undermine their own strike, for which its members will have voted in a ballot with high thresholds of support.’
The statement continues: ‘Such an obligation is unprecedented in British law, and it places trade unions in an intolerable conflict with their own members.’ The lawyers do not point out that the way out of this conflict of the trade unions with their members, is for the union leaders to break the law and then take mass action to remove it forcibly from the statute books.
The Lawyers continue: ‘The legislation also removes significant protections for individual workers exposing them to the risk of dismissal and victimisation. It will do nothing to resolve the current spate of industrial action, which will be settled by negotiation and agreement, rather than by the introduction of even tighter restrictions on trade unions.’
The TUC has accused the government of ducking scrutiny over the Bill, which if passed ‘the Strikes Bill will mean that when workers democratically and lawfully vote to strike they can be forced to work and be sacked if they don’t comply.’
The Bill gives ministers power to impose new minimum service levels through regulation.
But consultations on how these regulations will work in specific services have not been completed, and parliamentarians have been given few details on how minimum service levels are intended to operate.
The TUC says the new legislation will ‘do nothing’ to solve the current disputes across the public sector, and ‘only make matters worse’.
Alan Bogg, Professor of Labour Law at the University of Bristol said: ‘When combined with existing legislation, these proposals constitute a further departure from established norms and international treaty obligations. Rather than bringing Britain into line with other European countries, it deviates significantly from the legal traditions of our neighbours where the right to strike is often given explicit constitutional protection.’
Commenting on the lawyers’ letter, TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: ‘If this nasty legislation gets on to the statute book, the TUC will fight it all the way – including through the courts. The Conservatives cannot legislate away worker dissatisfaction.’
In fact the TUC must start fighting now. It must be forced to call a general strike to smash the anti-union laws and bring down the Tory anti-union government to bring in socialism and a socialist planned economy whose motto will be ‘from each according to their ability to each according to their needs!’