Just as Liz Truss slunk out of Downing Street last week, the government was launching a new anti-union law. If it’s implemented it will gut transport workers’ right to strike.
In a written statement to parliament last Thursday, the transport secretary said it “meets the Prime Minister’s commitment to “introduce this bill within her first 30 days of parliament sitting”. It was Truss’s final act.
The statement says the bill “will ensure that specified transport services–which could include, for example, rail, tubes and buses–will not completely shut down when unions impose strikes.”
As soon as the bill is passed, bosses could demand that unions agree on what level of service would be provided during strikes.
Unions would then have to make sure enough staff were at work to deliver it.
If any “specified staff” walked out, they could be sacked without the usual protection against unfair dismissal.
In some European countries, where similar laws exist, during strikes unions must maintain a full rail service from 6.30am to 9.30am and 4pm to 7pm plus running 25 percent of the service the rest of the time.
The bill says that if bosses and unions cannot agree on what minimum service should be provided, the decision would go to the Central Arbitration Committee. This is a government body which is designed to oversee the implementation of labour law.
It is stuffed with lawyers and bosses such as the “people director, justice and immigration” at outsourcer Serco, the head of workplace relations at Tesco, and the “senior director, labour relations and change” at Asda.
Then come the “Members with experience as representatives of workers”.
These are mostly very obscure or retired. But useful camouflage is provided by the general secretaries of the Prospect union and the Prison Officers Association, and a senior regional official in the NEU.
The CAC will undoubtedly be for some sort of “sensible” compromise that makes strikes ineffective.
The government also wants a reserve power whereby the transport secretary can set minimum service levels if they haven’t been agreed.
These laws cannot be allowed to go through. Every union needs to oppose them, call for strikes against them and pledge to defy them.
It’s sending shockwaves through the British establishment
Escalating the action can win
Emma was murdered in 2005
Iain Packer murdered Emma in 2005