The UK has some of the most draconian strike laws in the world

The UK has some of the most draconian strike laws in the world.

If the Conservatives win in May, they have promised to introduce a threshold so that no strike could take place in parts of the public sector unless at least 40% of all those entitled to vote in a ballot said yes. 

This would make it almost impossible for workers to go on strike in health, transport, schools, local government and the fire service. 

Ministers have also threatened to change the law so that agency staff can cover for striking workers, introduce strict time limits concerning action after a ballot and curb further still the already tough laws on picketing.

The implications are truly frightening. Unions already operate in a tough climate. This would shift the balance completely in favour of the government and employers, and away from dedicated public servants.

But not content to wait for the election, the Tories are already turning the screws on public sector workers.

In some government departments, unions soon won’t be able to collect members’ subs direct from their wages. 

Limits have been imposed on facility time, which union reps use to good effect winning good deals for their colleagues.

And communities secretary Eric Pickles has written to local government employers urging them to ban check-off and rein in facility time.

Thankfully most councils are so pre-occupied with the fallout from five years of savage spending cuts that most have yet to take up his offer. But who knows what will happen if the Tories win in May?

The effectiveness of strike action as a last resort is plain to see. National walkouts in higher education, local government, schools, health and police staff have brought the employers back to the negotiating table over pay and pensions.

And that’s not to mention the numerous local disputes that have enabled our members to defend themselves against attacks from unscrupulous employers. 

Rather than waging yet another assault on public sector workers, the government should be moving strike laws into the 21st century. And this must include the way that people can vote.

Currently, strikes can only be called on the results of a postal ballot. Plain brown envelopes that can be lost in the post, or amongst a pile of junk mail shoved through the letterbox. 

If they were serious about enhancing democracy, the Tories would be promising to change the law to allow secure online voting, giving people the chance to have their say from their computer, phone or tablet.

And allowing them to cast their vote securely at work.

The UK already has tough laws on strikes – there is no need to make them stricter still.