Blog: Why we must defend the right of working people to strike

The anti-strike bill is draconian and undemocratic, and will do nothing to fix the problems this government has caused

Christina McAnea on a picket line in Sheffield, with ambulance strikers, addressing the media

Thousands of UK workers are being forced to take industrial action to protect their pay, standard of living and the services they provide. But rather than helping workers live decent lives and improving the services that millions of people rely on every day, the Westminster government is turning its back on working people.

Strikes are always a symptom of a problem. But the government’s answer is to fast-track new legislation that will add further restrictions on the right to strike in the health, education, transport, and fire and rescue services, as well as border security and parts of the nuclear, radioactive waste and fuel sectors.

It’s another sticking plaster that won’t fix the deep-rooted causes of industrial disputes. Another distraction from their inability to manage the country’s public services and our economy.

UNISON is supporting the TUC’s campaign to defend the right to strike because this government believes its priority is taking away a legitimate part of industrial negotiations and more importantly, a fundamental right of workers – to withdraw their labour.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is continuing its rapid progress through Parliament this week. It exposes the government’s weakness in coping with a mess of their own making and a failure to respond to the needs of working people.

UNISON’s members are essential workers in public services, and our strike action takes place only after thorough plans for emergency cover have been negotiated and agreed with employers. But under these proposals, even if workers vote for legal industrial action, they could be forced to cross picket lines or be sacked if they don’t.

Sign the petition

The government claims the new law will bring us in line with the rest of Europe, but the European Trades Union Congress doesn’t agree. It says: “The UK already has among the most draconian restrictions on the right to strike in Europe, and the UK government’s plans would push it even further away from normal, democratic practice across Europe.”

Three reasons why the bill is bad for you

Draconian and undemocratic measures are about to be imposed by a government that has spent over a decade creating the situation we’re in now. High inflation, a pay crisis in our public sector, the NHS on its knees, and an economic outlook as grim as the constant sleaze that flows out of Whitehall.

This bill will do nothing to change any of that, and we must be part of the campaign to defeat it.

More on the TUC campaign to defend the right to strike

Right to strike rallies Wednesday 1 February