Irish and UK unions warn anti-trade union legislation risks exposing the UK to hefty sanctions
Both UK and Irish trade union bodies have warned today that the government’s anti-trade union law could be in breach of post-Brexit agreements and risks stoking UK-EU tensions.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) issued a joint statement which slammed the government’s Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act, warning the legislation could breach the UK’s labour obligations under the UK-EU trade and cooperation agreement.
The controversial strike reforms would enforce minimum service levels on striking workers, which could see workers sacked for exercising their right to strike and trade unions sued by employers.
Teachers were the latest workers to be threatened by Tory ministers with the legislation, along with doctors, university workers, fire fighters, transport workers and healthcare workers.
Union bodies warned that the legislation could lead to “hefty sanctions” being imposed on the UK for undermining its EU labour obligations, which would in turn hurt both UK workers and businesses.
General Secretary of the TUC, Paul Nowak, highlighted how the “undemocratic and unworkable” Bill could ‘sour’ UK-EU relations.
“The Strikes Act is dire for workers in the UK and across Europe,” said Nowak. “It would sour the UK’s relationship with the EU – including the Republic of Ireland.
“That’s why we’ve joined forces with Irish unions to warn about this pernicious legislation. Ministers are playing fast and loose with international commitments because they want to distract from their appalling economic record.”
He noted: “The UK’s new laws are an attack on the fundamental right to strike – they’re unworkable, undemocratic and very likely unlawful.
“This really matters for UK trade with Europe.”
In their joint statement, the TUC and ICTU wrote: “The Conservative government’s Strikes Act is a brazen attack on the right to strike. It’s unworkable, undemocratic and very likely unlawful.
“This matters for the UK’s future trading relationship with Europe – including the Republic of Ireland.
“It risks putting the UK in breach of its labour standards commitments in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement with the EU – exposing the UK to hefty sanctions and stoking UK-EU tensions.
“This is the last thing working people in Northern Ireland and the wider UK need – and it’s no good for working people in the Republic of Ireland and the wider EU either.
“That’s why the EU commission was right to put on record its concerns about the legislation to the UK government.
“Ministers should raise the bar on workers’ rights – not lower it.”
Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues