Unions slam Truss over plans to curb workers’ right to strike

‘We have to build a campaign to defeat the government over these changes,’ NEU's general secretary says

7 Oct 2022| News

Unions lambasted PM Liz Truss yesterday over plans her government is drafting up which target strikes by teachers, doctors, NHS workers and firefighters by decreeing minimum service levels.

Ms Truss took aim at “militant” unions as part of an attack on what she termed the “anti-growth coalition” in her keynote speech on the final day of the Tory Party conference in Birmingham.

The Prime Minister, who was interrupted at one point in her speech by protesters from Greenpeace, said environmental campaigners, opposition parties and trade unions were all part of this coalition of people who opposed her policies.

Ahead of her address, reporters were briefed that the PM intends to extend draft legislation, aimed at preventing strikes on transport networks, to cover the public sector — particularly teachers, NHS workers and firefighters.

Each of these groups of workers are currently considering strike action as part of disputes over their pay during the cost-of-living crisis.

A senior government source said: “We support the right to strike but ultimately we have to stop unions holding the country to ransom and that applies to other public services as well as transport.”

Ms Truss is believed to be weighing up a radical expansion of laws that require a minimum service requirements in the public sector.

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg is reportedly writing up which public services should have rules in place that limit the extent of action.

Ms Truss’s first leadership speech was given against a raft of financial and political chaos that has dogged her first few weeks in office.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch called the idea of an anti-growth coalition “barking mad.”

He said:

“Instead of maligning unions, the Prime Minister should turn her attention to the national rail dispute and help foster a negotiated settlement on job security, pay and working conditions.”

National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said:

“We have to build a campaign to defeat the government over these changes.

He added that industrial campaigns needed to be built “to scare employers that if needed we will replace these rights at employer level.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said if Ms Truss really wanted to grow the economy, she

“would not dismiss as ‘militant’ the nurses, drivers, refuse collectors, dockers and the tens of thousands of workers taking action on pay up and down the country so they can pay their bills and defend their families.”

Paul Nowak, TUC general secretary elect, said:

“Wouldn’t it be nice if this mess of a Conservative government put as much effort into boosting pay, ending insecure employment and tackling staff shortages as they do bashing unions and workers?

“The TUC and our union will fight to defend the fundamental right to strike.”

Institute of Employment Rights director Ben Sellers told the Morning Star the government was

“going further than Margaret Thatcher’s in suppressing workers’ rights — and the most shocking aspect of all is the multiple attempts to curb strike action.”

Opposition parties also slammed the PM’s speech.

Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Ms Truss

“has been at the heart of building a Conservative economy that has led to the flat wages and low growth she highlighted today.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP said:

“The Prime Minister has taken a wrecking ball to our economy — and she is threatening people’s mortgages, pensions, and household budgets with her incompetence.”

Communist Party general secretary Rob Griffiths said:

“Behind the mask of concern for the poor and the left behind, this is yet another Conservative government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.”

This article was originally published in the Morning Star on Thursday October 6th.