Unions Fear Liz Truss Could Bring In Anti-Strike Bill 'Imminently'

The Trades Union Congress tells its members to prepare for legislation to be published when parliament returns.
Liz Truss branded trade unions part of the "anti-growth coalition" that wants to "hold us back".
Liz Truss branded trade unions part of the "anti-growth coalition" that wants to "hold us back".
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Unions have been warned that Liz Truss could present an anti-strike bill to parliament as soon as Monday following a bruising two weeks in her premiership.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) emailed its members to warn that a parliamentary bill restricting the ability to strike could be published “imminently”.

In its email, seen by HuffPost UK, it warns: “We are expecting a bill to be published imminently — and parliament is back on Monday, so we could be plunged into a parliamentary campaign soon.”

MPs actually return from the conference recess season on Tuesday October 11.

The caution comes as strikes ramp up in the transport, health and education sectors.

Rail strikes overshadowed the Conservative party conference, with many delegates unable to return by train on the Wednesday owing to a shortage of drivers.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has asked is 300,000 members to vote for strike action for the first time in its 106-year history and the National Education Union (NEU) has warned that it will proceed to a formal strike if teachers don’t get a fully funded pay rise.

The prime minister set her sights firmly on the trade unions during her leadership campaign and repeated her intentions with her conference speech on Wednesday.

In her speech she attacked “militant” trade unions as part of the “anti-growth coalition” who try to “stop growth” and “hold us back”.

The conference speech came following a turbulent two weeks in which the markets reacted negatively to Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget which outlined £45 billion worth of unfunded tax cuts, including a pledge to drop the top 45p rate of tax for the country’s highest earners.

The chancellor was then forced into a U-turn on the top rate of tax after it became clear that a Tory rebellion would thwart his attempt to get it passed in parliament.

In the mini-budget Kwarteng said the government would follow other European countries in introducing minimum service levels to “stop militant trade unions closing down transport networks during strikes”.

And he said the UK would “go further” by legislating to require unions to put pay offers to a member vote to “ensure strikes can only be called once negotiations have genuinely broken down”.

A union source told HuffPost UK the latter move was “banning strikes by the back door”.

Other measures that could be included in a parliamentary bill are widening the definition of workers considered to deliver “important” pubic services so that higher thresholds for strike action must be met, as well as taxing the strike benefit workers receive when they take industrial action.

“Liz Truss is throwing red meat to her caucus at a time when the government is in trouble,” a separate union source added. “She’s lashing out.”

A TUC spokesperson said unions would fight “every step of the way” if any new laws are introduced.

“The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty — the last line of defence against unreasonable employers who won’t negotiate.

“The government should be focussed on helping families get through this cost of living emergency. But ministers want to stop workers from taking action for better pay and conditions.

“Unions won’t stand by while living standards are driven into the ground, and corporate profiteering is allowed to soar.

“We know these changes are unfair, unworkable and incompatible with our international commitments. We’ll be fighting them every step of the way.”


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