Trade union to hold a ‘protect the right to strike’ day of protest

Talks with the Health Secretary were not enough to avert further ambulance strikes on Wednesday  (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)
Talks with the Health Secretary were not enough to avert further ambulance strikes on Wednesday (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

A trade union is to hold a “protect the right to strike” day after the Government unveiled controversial new legislation to curb the impact of industrial action.

Members of the public will be invited to “show their support for workers taking action to defend their pay and conditions”, the TUC said.

It comes just hours after Business Secretary Grant Shapps set out new laws requiring minimum levels of service from ambulance staff, firefighters and railway workers during industrial action.

Unions have condemned the legislation as illegal and unworkable, saying they would “poison” industrial relations and lead to more strikes.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “Unions will fights these plans every step of the way – including through parliament and through the courts.

“On February the 1st will we hold events across the country against this spiteful new bill – which is unworkable and almost certainly illegal.

“We will call on the general public to show support for workers taking action to defend their pay and conditions, to defend our public services and to protect the fundamental right to strike.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay on Tuesday denied that he suggested that NHS staff “work harder” in exchange for a pay rise during his talks with unions.

Unite negotiator Onay Kasab – who was one of several union bosses to attend the Department of Health on Monday – said there had been discussion about “productivity” in return for better pay, which he branded an “insult”.

Mr Barclay responded: “That wasn’t said in the meeting and the trade union leader that made those comments outside the Department of Health, bizarrely, wasn’t actually in the meeting on which he was commenting.”

He said: “The British people need to know that when they have a heart attack, a stroke or a serious injury, that an ambulance will turn up and that if they need hospital care they have access to it.”

Under derogations agreed with NHS trusts, “life and limb cover” will be provided by paramedics during strike days. Anyone with a life-threatening health condition is still urged to call 999.