Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
8:40 AM 10th December 2023

Tory Anti-Strike Laws Will “Lead To Longer And More Frequent Strikes”, Mayors And Council Leaders Warn

Metro mayors and council leaders from across the UK have warned that Conservative anti-strike laws will “make disputes harder to solve” and “lead to more frequent and longer strikes”.

The mayors of London, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Bristol and North of Tyne, and council leaders of Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Nottingham and Sheffield, have joined forces to issue a scathing statement on minimum service levels.

The leaders of towns and cities pledge to “work with trades unions and employers to explore every possible option to avert any prospect of work notices being issued in our areas”.

The TUC has hailed the announcement as “hugely welcome”, particularly as the mayors and council leaders run services – such as transport – which could be subject to the legislation.

The mayors and council leaders also slam the new laws as “placing severe and unacceptable restrictions on the fundamental right of a worker to take industrial action to defend their pay and conditions”.

The statement comes after Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, and Humza Yousaf, First Minister of Scotland, have both said they will do everything in their power to avoid issuing work notices.

New laws restricting the right to strike and introducing minimum service levels in rail, border security and ambulance services are now on the statute book – after passing in parliament this week.

Ministers are also consulting on rules affecting workers in hospital settings, schools, universities and fire services.

Yesterday's intervention came as unions will be discussing how they take on the new anti-strike laws at a “once in a generation” special Congress.

Widespread criticism

The legislation gives ministers sweeping powers to impose strike restrictions in any service within health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning – and has faced widespread criticism.

NHS Providers recently warned that the legislation could worsen industrial relations, harm patient care and lead to more disruption.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) wrote to the government to express “serious concerns” about its anti-strike legislation breaching international law.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also warned that the legislation could see all striking workers in affected sectors lose their unfair dismissal protection, as whole strikes could be deemed illegal.

The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee criticised the Act for giving blanket powers to UK ministers while providing virtually no detail.

The Act has also faced a barrage of criticism from Acas, civil liberties organisations, the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, race and gender equalities groups, employment rights lawyers, and politicians around the world.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“I welcome today’s pledge from elected leaders across the UK to do all they can not to impose minimum service levels on striking workers.

“This statement from mayors and council leaders across Britain is the latest in a long list of scathing criticism for minimum service levels.

“Employers, politicians and civil society organisations have all condemned this legislation.

“And it’s little wonder so many are opposed these new laws. They are a deliberate attempt to restrict the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.

“Make no mistake – they are undemocratic, unworkable and likely illegal.

“And crucially – as the leaders of our towns and cities say – they will poison industrial relations and drag out disputes.

“That’s why we are calling today’s once in a generation special Congress. Unions won’t stop fighting this spiteful legislation until it’s repealed.”

On the commitment of mayors and council leaders to do everything in their power to avoid issuing work notices, Paul added:

“It’s hugely important and welcome that council leaders and mayors have joined the First Minister of Wales and the First Minister of Scotland in saying they will do everything they can to avoid issuing work notices.

“These politicians all run services which could be affected by the legislation.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said:
“The way for the government to resolve industrial disputes isn’t through draconian legislation, but to negotiate.

“Workers in our public services don’t take the decision to withdraw their labour and lose a day’s pay lightly, and strike action is always the last resort.

“Ministers threatening to sack workers for going on strike during a dispute is both wrong and likely to be counter-productive. This is why we have opposed minimum service levels every step of the way – and will do everything in our power not to issue work notices.

“It also undermines devolution, as services in Greater Manchester such as transport are devolved, with no role for government in decisions such as service levels.”