A senior union leader has warned of industrial confrontation “unseen since the 1970s” against the government’s latest anti-strike law.
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack issued the warning ahead of a special TUC conference on Saturday December 9.
Britain’s main unions will discuss how to take on and defy the Tories’ Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act as part of a civil disobedience campaign.
The repressive legislation, which allows ministers to impose arbitrary minimum service levels in “strategic” sectors and orders unions to instruct members to break their own strikes, became law in July.
Mr Wrack, who is also TUC president, warned the new law could trigger a wave of strikes next year, up to and during the general election.
“The Act is a blatant attempt to ban strikes and prevent workers defending their jobs, wages and conditions against the backdrop of Tory austerity and the cost-of-living crisis.
It’s about protecting bosses against workers. The reality of the legislation is now becoming clear.
In key sectors, employers will be able to issue work notices compelling a majority of employees to work even after a democratic vote for strike action.
That’s effectively trying to outlaw strikes.
It’s the biggest attack on workers’ rights in postwar Britain, and reminiscent of the oppressive restrictions that exist in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes.”
Unions believe the new law is expected to start taking effect across three sectors — the ambulance service, rail network and border security — from the middle of December.
Regulations for the fire and rescue service, education and nuclear decommissioning also set to be introduced soon.
Employers will be able to issue “work notices” to make staff come in on strike days.
Mr Wrack added:
“The FBU and other unions will not accept this attack on working people by this government led by multi-millionaires which ruthlessly serves the interests of the billionaires and bosses.
The TUC summit on Saturday December 9 could well mark the start of a campaign of non-compliance with this legislation, with workers striking in defiance of work notices.
A campaign of non-co-operation backed by the TUC would represent the most significant act of defiance by unions since the 1970s when anti-worker legislation was defeated through mass defiance of the law.”
This article was first published in the Morning Star. We thank them for their kind permission to re-publish it here.