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A “WORKERS’ revolt” will pile pressure on Tory MPs to block government plans to strip protections from striking workers, the labour movement has warned.
A TUC-organised emergency protest is set to hit Parliament Square tonight as the widely condemned Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill returns to the Commons after being savaged by peers, who passed several amendments.
The legislation, which aims to empower bosses and even ministers to fire key sector workers who refuse to cross their own picket lines and force provision of an as yet undefined “minimum service level” during walkouts, could affect 5.5 million people, the union body warned.
The Bill, which Labour has pledged to repeal at the first opportunity, has faced a barrage of criticism from MPs, peers, employers, international rights groups and unions across Europe.
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “Today Conservative MPs must do the right thing and oppose government plans to sack front-line workers for exercising their right to strike.
“No-one should be sacked for trying to win a better deal at work, but this draconian legislation would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they could be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.
“It’s undemocratic, unworkable — and very likely unlawful. It will poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them.
“It’s no surprise that politicians, employers and rights groups are queueing to condemn this spiteful Bill.”
He urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “step back from the brink, ditch this Bill for good and protect the right to strike.”
Fire Brigades Union head Matt Wrack echoed the call, saying: “The UK already has the most restrictive anti-union laws in the developed world — and the result of this is that we have suffered from falling wages and sharper exploitation.
“An inspiring wave of resistance has swept the country in the past year, but instead of negotiating with workers, this government of millionaires is seeking to have key workers sacked and victimised. They want to drive wages down even further so their big business backers can cash in.
“We are seeing a workers’ revolt against a hard-right government with no policy mandate — that revolt will continue whatever happens today.”
Tory MPs are expected to be under pressure from Downing Street to reject the Lords amendments in tonight’s vote.
These include removing a rule that would make refusing to comply with “work notices” a breach of contract, which would put strikers at risk of dismissal, and adding an exemption from the provisions for Wales and Scotland.
Devolved Labour and SNP ministers in Cardiff and Edinburgh respectively have already pledged that they would not use the legislation, even if it is forced on them.
Wales TUC leader Shavanah Taj warned that a fifth of workers west of the Severn Bridge could be affected by the “spiteful Bill.”
She added: “UK ministers have tried to keep the public in the dark about its true nature.
“They are ramming it through, short-cutting normal parliamentary procedures and ducking scrutiny. And they are giving themselves the power to snatch away the right to strike of five-and-a-half million workers.
“With inflation still running at over 10 per cent, the last thing workers need is for UK ministers to make it harder to secure better pay and conditions.”
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