Rishi Sunak’s plans to crackdown on the right to strike have been branded “shameful” by a former Tory minister.
On Tuesday the government unveiled new laws requiring minimum levels of service from ambulance staff, firefighters and railway workers during industrial action.
Grant Shapps, the business secretary, said the legislation was a “common-sense” response to the wave of industrial unrest.
But Stephen McPartland, who served as security minister during Boris Johnson’s premiership, attacked the proposals.
“Shameful, shameful, shameful to target individual workers & order them to walk past their mates on picket line or be sacked,” the MP for Stevenage said on Twitter.
“By all means fine the unions, make them agree to minimum service levels, but don’t sack individual NHS staff, teachers & workers!!!”
Shameful, shameful, shameful to target individual workers & order them to walk past their mates on picket line or be sacked. By all means fine the Unions, make them agree to minimum service levels, but don’t sack individual NHS staff, teachers & workers!!!
— Rt Hon Stephen McPartland (@SMcPartland) January 10, 2023
Speaking in the Commons, Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, branded the new laws “insulting” to nurses as well as “utterly stupid”.
Shapps has also been condemned for accusing ambulance workers of “putting lives at risk” when they went on strike last month.
The business secretary has played down the prospect of union members being sacked for refusing to work under the new law.
But TUC general secretary Paul Nowak warned the legislation would risk further strikes.
“This legislation would mean that, when workers democratically vote to strike, they can be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply,” he said.
“That’s undemocratic, unworkable, and almost certainly illegal. Let’s be clear: if passed, this Bill will prolong disputes and poison industrial relations – leading to more frequent strikes.”
The introduction of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill comes a day after transport, health and education unions held a series of crisis meetings with Westminster ministers which did not resolve the disputes.