The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has determined that The Government’s new Strike Bill could affect 5.5 million workers’ right to strike across England, Scotland and Wales. The Bill is likely to draw further controversy following an emergency protest held by the TUC, which ran concurrently with Parliament’s final vote on the Bill on Monday, 22 May.
The Bill would allow the Government to unilaterally impose minimum levels of service on workers striking in certain key sectors, including health, education and transport. Employers would be able to issue work notices to unions specifying who must work during strike action. Failure to comply with these work notices would ‘constitute lawful grounds for dismissal’.
The Bill faces heavy opposition from trade unions, who perceive it as a restriction on a worker’s right to strike. The TUC’s regional secretary for Yorkshire and the Humber Bill Adams claimed that the Bill is ‘undemocratic, it’s unworkable and it’s very likely illegal’. Adams elaborated further saying ‘this draconian legislation would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they could be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply’.
Many view the Strikes Bill as counterproductive. Speaking to the TUC, Eddie Brand, an emergency medical technician, said that many of his ‘colleagues are leaving the profession and are looking for work elsewhere, as our pay is held down and the workload increases’. He continued: ‘without the right to strike we would have no ability to defend our NHS or our pay. We would be effectively held to ransom, and we will lose even more experienced staff’.
The Bill has also raised questions from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). They believe the Bill could violate several articles under the European Convention on Human Rights, namely the Prohibition of Slavery and Forced Labour, Freedom of Assembly and Association, and Prohibition of Discrimination. The EHRC also criticised the vagueness of the Bill, noting that more detail ‘is needed in order to facilitate effective parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill’.
The TUC hopes to convince Conservative MPs to ‘do the right thing and oppose government plans to sack frontline workers for exercising their right to strike’.