Over 100 politicians around the world call on the UK government to drop its anti-strikes Bill

UK government’s attempt to justify draconian laws by drawing on international comparisons with France, Italy & Spain rejected by politicians worlwide.

25 Apr 2023| News

More than 100 politicians from around the world have today (Tuesday) called for the UK government to drop its anti-strikes Bill.

A joint statement signed by 121 politicians from 18 countries including Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Spain has condemned the UK government’s attack on the right to strike.

The statement comes ahead of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill going to report stage in the House of Lords tomorrow.

The politicians include signatories from governing parties like the Australian Labor Party and Spain’s coalition government parties PSOE and Unidas Podemos – as well as former Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte and former Italian labour secretary Andrea Orlando, alongside other important former ministers.

UK ministers have repeatedly named France, Italy and Spain as countries they are supposed to be emulating through the legislation.

But the joint statement – signed by politicians from these countries – slams the attempts to justify this draconian legislation and rejects these comparisons outright.

Highlighting how Britain is already an outlier in the democratic world and rejecting international comparisons, the politicians say:

We reject the UK government’s attempt to limit workers’ rights and its attempt to justify it with comparisons to international norms.

The UK already has some of the most draconian restrictions on trade unions anywhere in the democratic world and workers in the UK are faced with disproportionate regulatory hurdles before participation in a strike can be considered legal.

Despite this, the UK government is set on further rolling back worker protections and freedoms.

The right to strike is guaranteed in international law by a succession of important treaties.

The ability for people to collectively withdraw their labour is a fundamental right in a democratic society

We support the Trades Union Congress in calling on the UK government to abandon this bill. 

Highlighting the new sweeping powers the Bill will give to ministers, the politicians say:

The government’s proposed legislation, the ‘Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill’, is attempting to bring in new top-down powers which would allow them to impose an arbitrary level of service on a broad range of sectors.

These new powers will allow the government to force union members to go into work on strike days under threat of dismissal. 

Barrage of criticism

The Bill has faced a barrage of criticism from civil liberties organisations, the joint committee on human rights, House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, race and gender equalities groups, employment rights lawyers – and a whole host of other organisations.

Unions in Europe – representing over 20 million workers – have also condemned the legislation as dragging the UK further away from democratic norms.

And the EHRC recently warned that the legislation could see all striking workers in affected sectors losing their unfair dismissal protection as whole strikes could be deemed illegal.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“The right to strike is a fundamental freedom – but the Conservative government is attacking it in broad daylight. The UK already has some of the most restrictive anti-union laws in Europe.

Over 100 politicians around the world have condemned this Bill. They know it will only drag the UK even further away from democratic norms. This 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 almost certainly illegal. And crucially, it could poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them. No one should be sacked for defending their pay and conditions, and trying to win a better deal at work.

It’s time for ministers to drop this spiteful bill and protect the right to strike.”