The Right to Strike 2023 (London)

This free IER event looked at the recent pernicious attacks on the right to strike, and how the trade union movement might respond

24th March 2023 – 9:30 am - 3:30 pm
London, WC1X 8TN

About the event

Unlike other countries the UK does not have a constitutional or legal right to strike. Instead, we have a limited right to not be dismissed for taking part in industrial action. Collective and industrial rights have been chipped away by successive Governments over the last 40 years, often underpinned by economic and political myths. However, with the recent cost of living crisis and unions now responding to plummeting wage values, the array of legal caveats on workers’ rights are functioning as a restriction on unions to stop them from fighting for their members rights.

More modern attacks on workers’ rights, such as the Government ending the ban on agency workers being used to break strikes last year, as well as increased Certification Officer powers, sends a message that the game is rigged further in the favour of employers. This paints a grim picture for future generations of workers.
Since 1919 police officers have not been able to join an independent trade union. In the 1980’s some workers have had their right to take strike action completely rescinded, such as the Prison Officers. Now it seems the Government have other neglected sectors of workers in their sites.

Minimum service levels during strikes are the most recent attack on industrial rights. They seek to put the responsibility of an employer having minimum staff on to unions during disputes, with punitive legal and financial measures for unions who do not comply.

There is now a greater need for unions to oppose such measures and demand a fair alternative for workers. The IER had just produced a pamphlet ‘Workers’ Rights in Times of Crisis’ which analyses the economic context of these attacks, as well as the recent and proposed attacks on workers’ rights. It discusses what the legal, industrial, and political implications of these attacks may be, but more importantly discusses an alternative to the current punitive chaos for workers, by exploring ideas on a Workers Bill of Rights. Delegates received a free digital copy.



Steve Gillan, POALessons from the past: The withdrawal of the right to strike in the prison service

Professor Alan Bogg, University of Bristol – P&O and the continued attrition of workers’ rights

Prof Lydia Hayes, University of Liverpool – Certification Officers powers and fines: Government opening the door for more union busting

Professor Keith Ewing, IER – The insidious nature of minimum service levels in industrial disputes

Lord John Hendy KC and Professor Keith Ewing, IERIn conversation on the IER pamphlet ‘ Workers’ Rights in Times of Crisis’