Unions’ dismay as new strike law announced

The TUC claims the government is threatening a fundamental British liberty


The government has today announced new legislation introducing new strike thresholds for ‘important public services’. It means that strikes in certain sectors – fire, health, education, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning – will require the support of 40 per cent of union members entitled to vote and a 50 per cent turnout in order to legally go ahead.

Employment minister Nick Boles said the new law was a way of reassuring the public that any strike which causes disruption in their daily lives is justified by the backing of a reasonable proportion of union members. But unions are not convinced the case has been made.

Responding to the announcement, the TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The government is set on introducing tougher measures to make it harder for teachers, doctors and other public servants to defend their jobs and the services we all rely on. Now, with government cuts making services worse for patients, pupils and passengers, staff will find it far harder to raise their concerns. And we will all feel the impact in the long-term.

“The decision to go on strike is never one people take lightly. It’s a last resort, when employers won’t listen and won’t compromise. The government is wrong to threaten this fundamental British liberty.”

She added:

“Ministers have done their utmost to try and brainwash the public into thinking that strikes are out of control. However, days lost to strike action are just a tiny fraction of what they were in the 1980s. And they accounted for a miniscule 0.0035 per cent of all working days between October 2014 and October 2015.

“These new thresholds will have the perverse effect of making abstentions more powerful in strike ballots than ‘no’ votes – and yet increasing participation in union democracy is something the government claims to want.”

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.