This month, I have been working tirelessly to oppose the UK Government’s proposed immoral anti-strike legislation, where instead of paying key workers fairly, they intend to impose harsh new anti-strike laws.
Just months ago, the UK Government applauded vital workers. They are now threatening them with the sack if they go on strike.
The new extreme laws, sadly passed at Committee Stage in the last few days, are a full-frontal assault on workers.
The new measure, which is an attack on the fundamental human right to strike, would allow employers to sue unions and sack workers if they did not provide a certain level of service.
The irony is there was no minimum service level when this Government went on their own strike last summer without a ballot—they had the ballot afterwards. So it was OK for them to go on strike last summer to force workplace change, but it is not for people in the fire service, education, health, or transport.
Yet the truth is this legislation is not needed. The sad reality is that the Government has ignored existing legislation during all stages of the Bill in Parliament.
Section 240 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 provides for safety and “life and limb” cover. That is a must in existing legislation, and there is a custodial sentence if a trade union does not supply it.
To the little surprise of most of you reading this, however, the Government did not know that. It’s mind-blowing how they could not know that emergency “life and limb” cover was already there in legislation.
Yet you will continue to hear rhetoric from the Tories in the news that the Bill was about setting a minimum service level across the public sector. If only that was the case.
That is different from what this Bill does.
What the Bill actually does is set a minimum service level only in the event of industrial action—on strike days, not non-strike days. Minimum service levels should not be higher on a strike day than on a typical day.
The Bill will also further attack the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government’s powers.
On the issue of devolution, this Bill allows the UK Government, via the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to run roughshod over the Scottish Government’s efforts and Scottish democracy by choosing to impose what he believes is an appropriate minimum service level.
If there was a strike in Glasgow by McGill’s Buses, for example, the Secretary of State in the UK Parliament would determine the minimum bus level for that weekend. That is really quite incredible and should worry anyone who supports Scottish democracy.
Contrast these plans and attacks on workers in Trade Unions with the constructive role the Scottish Government has had in recent disputes in Scotland.
The SNP have at every stage met with Unions, sought to negotiate and has never once demonised workers who take industrial action.
That is because Scotland’s priorities are the opposite of what the Tories at Westminster have in store for workers. For years, I have argued that these powers need to be devolved to protect workers in Scotland, but Labour has repeatedly refused to agree to that – including in Gordon Brown’s latest report, which is silent on employment law and rights.
Whether it’s the Tories or Labour, neither can be trusted to protect Scottish workers.
Therefore, until we secure our independence, we are left again at the mercy of the UK Government’s right-wing, anti-worker agenda and their continued attacks on fundamental human rights.