Defend the Right to Strike

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2023 National Delegate Conference
13 February 2023
Carried as Amended

Conference is alarmed at the new Strikes (Minimum Services Levels) Bill for Great Britain which further attacks the right to strike and with draw your labour in this country.

Conference believes that the right to strike is a fundamental human right and needs to be exercised now to win better wages and conditions in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. Whilst there have been gains in individual employment rights over recent decades this country has seen a fall in collective bargaining coverage, a fall in living standards as a result and a concentration of power and money by the wealthy. There are now only 6.5 million trade unionists in the UK from a workforce of 31 million and the UK has some of the most restrictive laws in the western world.

This attack by the Conservative government in response should also be seen alongside the 2016 Trade Union Act, current threats from the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, the rise of fire and re-hire as in the P&O scandal, the rise of zero hours contracts and the Public Order Bill restrictions on the right to protest in public. Plus, the threat to the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Conference believes that the right to strike underpins the right to collective bargain and have the following benefits:

1)Reducing inequality;

2)Raising income levels;

3)Stops under cutting by employers;

4)Tackling discrimination;

5)And gives workers a voice.

The new Bill will give politicians the power to impose Minimum Service Levels (MSL) during industrial action in health, fire and rescue, education, transport, nuclear and border security. This will be backed up by the right of employers to serve unions with ‘work notices’ to meet the MSL which can identify roles and workers forced to work. And if deemed to fail to comply with this notice immunity is lost from being sued for damages by employers with fines up to £1million and loss of unfair dismissal protection for striking workers. This Bill has nothing to do with public safety and is not comparable to provision in other European countries which have strong collective bargaining laws.

Conference believes we must send a clear message to the government, employers and other trade unions that we will not equivocate in demonstrating our solidarity in the strongest terms with any worker or union which falls foul of any new restrictive anti trade union laws. In doing so we believe this sends a message to our movement to be ready to be mobilised and sends a message to the Government that we will not stand idly by and watch our rights being stripped away.

Conference therefore re-affirms our existing support for the right to strike and the abolition of the anti-trade unions laws and calls on the National Executive Council to:

a)Oppose the Westminster Parliament’s Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill;

b)Work with TUC on a mass campaign to defeat the Bill; including joint meetings and protests with other unions;

c)Work with campaign groups and political parties who align with UNISON policies to oppose the Bill;

d)Work with Self Organised Groups, Young Members, Retired members, service groups and Regions to strengthen our campaign;

e)Set out the case for the right to strike and the benefits of collective bargaining;

f)Fully support UNISON members taking industrial action in defence of their pay and conditions at work;

g)Work with Labour Link to call on the Labour Party to follow through on commitments to repeal these anti-trade union laws and further call on them to repeal all other anti-trade union laws.