An assault on democracy

The government’s draconian strike legislation has nothing to do with safety. It is designed to weaken the power of trades unions to defend the interests of their members, by making strike action ineffectual. That it is an assault on democracy is underlined by the fact that a single Minister, Grant Shapps, is going to be given the power to determine “minimal service levels” himself by way of regulation.

In addition Shapps will be given the power by use of ‘statutory instrument’ to “amend, repeal or revoke provision made by or under primary legislation”; any act before or after the passing of this bill!

The government is effectively taking away the right to strike for some people, even if they have voted for strike action in a legal ballot. An employer will have the right to determine who goes to work regardless of how they voted in the ballot. The employer will be given the power to issue a “work notice” identifying the individual workers required to operate the MSL.

Should a worker refuse to work they will lose ‘unfair dismissal’ protection if dismissed. So the democratic vote to take strike action does not matter a fig. The employer will have the power to compel a worker to work at risk of dismissal if they refuse.

More dictatorial measures follow. A trade union must take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure that its members compelled to work, attend on a strike day. There is no clarity on what ‘reasonable steps’ are. Is a trade union to instruct its members to go to work and cross a picket line even when they have voted to strike?

Failure by a trade union to take ‘reasonable steps’ will render a strike unlawful. It will remove unfair dismissal for all strikers, and expose the unions to injunctions and claims from employers for damages. It will threaten them with sequestration of their assets in the event of non-compliance. The financial threat to trades unions takes us back to the days of the Taff Vale judgement and threatens to bankrupt unions, unless they become absolutely quiescent organisations.

Another expression of the contempt of this government for democracy relates to the devolved administrations. The primary legislation that Shapps can override or repeal is also defined to include an Act of the Senedd or the Scottish Parliament. So much for devolution.

Having clapped public sector workers for their critical role during the pandemic, these hypocrites are now not only refusing to give them wages sufficient to stop the drain of staff working under intolerable pressure, but they are now threatening them with the sack if they defend themselves and the integrity of the public services they supply.

This anti-democratic legislation has to be opposed, and if introduced, overturned at the earliest opportunity. It takes a away the fundamental democratic right of workers to take strike action to defend their interests. It is an assault on our democratic rights.

To cap it all government MPs have just voted to remove thousands of pieces of EU legislation, including all the protections that exist for workers. They truly are an increasingly autocratic government.

Martin Wicksj

January 19th 2023

A letter to the Swindon Advertiser

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