From education to employment

Stop attacking the right to strike and start negotiating in good faith with unions on public sector pay, TUC tells ministers

people sat around table

The TUC has today (Wednesday) told the government to stop attacking the right to strike and instead get round the table to negotiate in good faith with unions on public sector pay.

The warning comes as new figures published by the TUC reveal the average public servant is £203 a month worse off compared to 2010 once inflation has been taken into account.

‘Protect The Right To Strike Day’

The TUC has published the analysis as it holds events up and down the country today as part of its ‘Protect The Right To Strike Day’.

The union body is using the day to raise public awareness of the government’s ‘draconian’ new anti-strike Bill and to demonstrate the strong public support for protecting the right to strike against government attacks.

Several unions – representing teachers (NEU), civil servants (PCS), university lecturers (UCU) and train drivers (ASLEF & RMT) – are striking today as part of their industrial campaigns to put pressure on ministers and employers to resolve their respective disputes.

Up to 500,000 workers will be on strike – making today the biggest day of strike action since 2011, when more than 2 million workers and over 30 trade unions took part in strike action on the same day.

The TUC says the key focus on Wednesday 1 February will be protecting the right to strike and supporting workers taking action to protect public services.

Attack on the right to strike

The TUC says the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is an attack on the right to strike.

The union body adds that the legislation is undemocratic, unworkable and very likely illegal.

Previous government advice – published in the autumn – warned that minimum service levels in transport could poison industrial relations, and lead to more frequent industrial action. 

Despite this warning, the Conservatives are now proposing to extend minimum service levels to a range of other sectors including – health, education, fire, border security and nuclear decommissioning.

Earlier this month the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) – a government-appointed body – criticised ministers for failing to provide MPs with an impact assessment on its new Minimum Service Levels bill.

The TUC says the legislation is “shortcutting” normal scrutiny procedures and being “steamrollered” through parliament without proper consultation and scrutiny.

The bill gives ministers power to impose new minimum service levels through regulation. 

But consultations on how these regulations will work have not been published, and parliamentarians have been given few details on how minimum service levels are intended to operate – even Conservative backbenchers have criticised the lack of detail in the bill.

Earlier this week, 50 civil liberties organisations penned an open letter slamming the Bill as an attack on the right to strike.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty, but the government is threatening to sack workers for exercising that basic right.

“Nobody should lose their job if they take lawful action to win a better deal at work.

“It’s undemocratic, unworkable and very likely illegal.

“That’s why today we’re standing up for our right to strike, for our public services – and for the hundreds of thousands of workers striking to defend their pay and conditions.

“Our message to ministers is this – stop attacking the right to strike and start negotiating with unions in good faith on public sector pay.

“With inflation running at over 10%, the last thing working people need is for ministers to make it harder for them to secure better pay and conditions.”

On public sector strikes, Paul added:

“Public sector workers face a double whammy. First ministers hold down their pay and then they attack their fundamental right to strike.

“Let’s be clear. This will do nothing to solve the staffing crisis in our schools and in the NHS.

“After years of brutal pay cuts, nurses, teachers and millions of other public servants have seen their living standards decimated – and are set to face more pay misery.

“Instead of scheming up new ways to attack the right to strike, ministers should get pay rising across the economy – starting with a decent pay rise for workers across the public sector.”

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