Trade unions have warned the UK faces a general strike if Liz Truss goes ahead with plans to further curb workers rights to take industrial action.
The caution came on another day of rail strikes in Britain and a new vote by rail unions to escalate industrial action this summer, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer sacked his shadow transport minister who joined a RMT picket line.
Truss, the favourite to become the UK’s next prime minister, has unveiled plans to severely restrict workers’ rights to strike.
The proposals have been derided by Trade Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady who said they amount to “a fundamental attack on a fundamental British liberty – that when the boss won’t listen or compromise, workers have the right, internationally recognised, to withdraw their labour”.
Truss has proposed sweeping reforms of trade union laws, including guaranteeing minimum services during strikes and raising thresholds for the number of workers that must take part in ballots for strike action.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps laid out a 16-point plan to “complete Thatcher’s unfinished business” which includes making it harder to hold ballots for industrial action. Shapps said the plan will also ban “union collusion”, making it more difficult to hold a general strike.
This comes on top of new legislation already rushed through parliament that allows companies to hire agency staff to replace striking workers. Twelve unions have launched a legal challenge against the new law that has also been criticised by business.
“This was a criminal offence. Now it’s an option for business,” tweeted Kwasi Kwarteng, the business and energy secretary about the law change, adding: “We will not let trade unions grind our economy to a halt.”
Lynch will campaign for general strike if Truss curbs union powers
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch called Truss’ plans “dangerous” and that if they become law would see “resistance rivalling the general strike of 1926, the Suffragettes and Chartism.”
If Truss wins the Conservative party leadership election and presses ahead with her union busting plans as prime minister, Lynch said he would campaign for the TUC to call a general strike.
“The proposals by Liz Truss amount to the biggest attack on trade union and civil rights since labour unions were legalised in 1871. Truss is proposing to make effective trade unionism illegal in Britain and to rob working people of a key democratic right.
“If these proposals become law, there will be the biggest resistance mounted by the entire trade union movement, rivalling the general strike of 1926, the suffragettes and Chartism.”
Keir Starmer sacks Sam Tarry for joining rail strike picket;
Starmer has provoked fury among Labour ranks and trade unions after sacking shadow transport minister Sam Tarry who joined RMT strikers at Euston station on Wednesday (July 27).
Labour is denying Tarry was sacked for joining the picket line, arguing instead the shadow transport minister was dismissed for giving unauthorised media interviews.
Tarry – who, the Telegraph reports is Labour deputy leader Angela Rayners “boyfriend” – was told by party whips he has broken collective responsibility by making statements on pay and inflation contrary to Labour’s policy.
John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, called Starmer’s decision to sack Tarry a “severe mistake”.
In an interview with Sky News, McDonnell said: “I don’t know who is advising Keir Starmer, but this is a completely unnecessary row that’s been invented just at a time when the Tories are tearing themselves apart, and we’ve got the maximum opportunity I think to gain an advantage in the polls that will build the support to take us into a government.”
McDonnell added: “This is an unnecessary dispute and whoever has advised Keir Starmer on this, I think he has made a severe mistake.”