European unions slam government plans for minimum service levels during strikes
Unions representing more than 20 million workers across Europe have criticised the UK government’s controversial plans for a new law on providing minimum service levels during strikes.
As the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill begins its passage through the House of Lords next week, a joint statement by the general secretaries of nine trade unions in France, Germany, Spain and Italy rejects the government’s claims that the legislation would bring the UK into line with Europe.
The TUC said ministers have repeatedly named France, Italy and Spain as countries they are supposed to be emulating through the legislation, adding that major unions in these countries strongly dispute these claims.
The European unions warned that more restrictions on the right to strike will “only drag the UK further away from democratic norms, risk violating international law, and tarnish its international reputation.”
The French, German, Italian and Spanish unions said there were “marked differences” in laws governing unions and workers in disputes in their countries compared with the UK.
The TUC has accused the government of spending more time and energy in “steamrollering” the Bill through parliament than on resolving the disputes which are continuing across the public sector.
Recent TUC research found that one in three public sector workers are actively considering quitting their jobs, with with poor pay the most popular reason cited for staff wanting to quit.
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “The right to strike is a fundamental freedom, but but the Conservative government is attacking it in broad daylight.
“No one should face the sack for trying to win a better deal at work.
“This legislation would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they could be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.
“The UK already has some of the most restrictive anti-union laws in Europe.
“That’s why major unions in France, Spain, Germany and Italy have slammed this draconian Bill.
“They know that the strikes Bill will only serve to drag the UK even further away from European democratic norms.
“The legislation is undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal.
“And crucially, it could poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them.”
European TUC general secretary Esther Lynch said: “The claim that restricting the right to strike would bring the UK into line with ‘European norms’ would be laughable if its consequences for democracy and working people weren’t so grave.
“The UK’s draconian restrictions on the right to strike are part of an antagonistic approach to industrial relations which has produced the biggest social conflict in a generation.
“It stands in stark contrast to the system of social dialogue between unions, employers and government which is the norm in the countries picked by UK government and across Europe.”
The government has defended the legislation, saying it was right to protect vital services during industrial action.