European trade unions condemn UK government’s anti-strike law

European trade unions have come together to denounce and rubbish the UK government’s anti-strike legislation.

Right to strike

Trade unions representing millions of workers across Europe have come out to denounce the Tory government’s proposed minimum service bill, and dismiss ministers’ reasoning as ‘total nonsense’.  

European unions EPSU, ETF and ETUCE, who represent public service, education and transport workers across Europe, together condemned the anti-strike legislation in a letter to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

The letter urged MEPs not to make any deals with the UK unless workers’ rights to strike are protected.

The proposed law, which has passed through its second reading in the Commons, will impose minimum service levels on strikes, and could lead to striking workers being sacked or unions being sued if they are not met.

European unions have debunked claims made by the UK government that introducing minimum service levels will bring the UK closer to those of other European countries, as Tory MPs continue to rely on this line of argument to justify the laws.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, General Secretary of the EPSU public services federation called this argument ‘total nonsense’.

He goes on to undermine minister’s claims by explaining: “This ignores the fact that the UK is a complete outlier in the excessive rules on ballots and voting thresholds that it has imposed on public service workers.

“It is also ignoring that in countries like Italy or Spain, that it chooses as comparisons, guarantee a right to strike in their constitutions and a right to negotiate minimum service levels rather than have them imposed.”

The letter also states that even the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director has rejected these claims, despite repeated suggestions by UK ministers that the ILO support the strike laws.

This comes after the head of the UN’s agency for workers’ rights came out last week to deny backing the laws, in face of repeated claims by the government to the contrary.

The European union leaders went on to stress how the UK already has some of the most restrictive laws on trade unions and the right to strike.

Livia Spera, General Secretary of the European Transport Workers’ Federation also called out decades of rail privatisation leading to the deterioration of rail services across the UK.

Spera said: “Instead of tackling the root causes of this massive protest and proceed with renationalising the rail system, the UK government has decided to hinder a fundamental trade union right.

“This is a battle for democracy, and we will fully support it, we are fully behind our UK trade unions.”

Expressing their solidarity with striking UK workers in face of the cost-of-living crisis, the three federations sent their support for the day of action organised by the TUC on 1 February.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

(Photo credit: Hannah Davenport)

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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