The legislation is an attempt to 'drive a wedge between working people’
General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Paul Nowak took to the airwaves this morning to speak out about the anti-strikes bill which will be voted on by MPs this evening.
He slammed media accusations of union ‘scare tactics’ by laying out the reality of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill which could see workers lose their job for taking strike action.
As media presenters sought to play down the implications of the bill, Nowak said threatening workers with the sack was ‘untenable’ and that the real reason it was being put through was to ‘demonise trade unions’ and ‘drive a wedge between working people’.
“There is no public appetite at all to see nurses, paramedics, teachers, railway workers sacked for exercising what most people will think as a fundamental British liberty, the right to strike,” Nowak said on Sky News.
“To remove it would put the UK as a real international outlier.”
Commenting on LBC radio he said the legislation was clear, that people could lose their jobs if they fail to comply with these minimum service levels, pressing the point that this doesn’t happen anywhere else in Europe.
Pushed on the sofa with Kat Burley about requiring a minimum level of service during strikes, Nowak pointed out that throughout the health service strikes workers and unions made sure emergency cover was provided, along with teachers who had gone in to support students throughout industrial action.
Commenting on the real reasons for the bill Nowak said: “It’s not about good industrial relations and it’s not really about providing minimum service level, it’s about demonising workers for accessing their fundamental right to take strike action for better pay and conditions.”
Instead he blamed Tory backbenchers seeking to push the legislation through Parliament, in an attempt to further ‘demonise unions’ and to ‘drive wedges between working people’.
Recent research by the TUC found 1 in 5 workers in the UK would see their right to strike come under threat from this legislation.
Nowak stressed that it was also employers who were raising concerns over the legislation, which they believed would only work to exacerbate industrial disputes going forward.
Nowak has called on all MPs to oppose the legislation or, at the very least, for Conservative MPs to support the House of Lords amendments which would remove the threat of workers being sacked.
A major emergency protest will take place outside Parliament this evening at 6pm, with Nowak predicting thousands of attendees, demanding that MPs reject and repeal the bill.
Among the guest speakers will be Mick Lynch of the RMT union and Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union.
Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward
(Photo credit: Sky News / Screenshot)
Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust