What is the right to strike?

June 6, 2011 7:54 pm

Unite oil refinery strikeBy Byron Taylor / @byrontaylor74

This morning, Vince Cable carried a stark warning to the trade union movement – industrial action will legitimise further restrictions on strike laws. Whilst this must be opposed, it is important to understand that there is no right to strike in UK law.

The right to strike asserts that employees have the right to take action against an unreasonable employer, and that their employment contract should be suspended for the period of that action (i.e. they cannot be sacked for going on strike.)

Here in the UK, we do not have the right to strike. The law only recognises the existence of ‘trade disputes’, which severely limits the grounds for action (and virtually excludes agency workers or outsourced employees). Where employees do take action they are deemed to have broken their contract of employment – a sackable offence.

This is not a hypothetical argument – just ask the workers at Friction Dynamix, who were sacked en masse for the temerity of taking action.

The right to strike is a fundamental human right. It gives workers dignity in employment; the right to protest without fearing for your job, your home, your family. It is what separates workers from serfs.

The coalition has indicated that it is willing to restrict existing strike laws. We must make the case that this undermines not just trade unions, but working people everywhere.

Latest

  • News This is what the Tory in charge of the NHS thinks about mental health

    This is what the Tory in charge of the NHS thinks about mental health

    Alastair Campbell appeared on BBC Three programme Free Speech this week to talk about mental health, and his experiences of depression (you can watch the full episode here). In it, he tells the story of meeting Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, who couldn’t understand Campbell having depression because of his “great life”. While the idea of someone with such a simplistic understanding of mental health issues being in charge of the country’s health service is shocking, it goes […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Setting out an agenda for fixing Britain’s broken workplaces

    Setting out an agenda for fixing Britain’s broken workplaces

    The Smith Institute’s new report ‘Making Work Better’, published today, sets out an alternative agenda for a new government to tackle Britain’s poor performing workplaces, which are holding back the recovery and costing the nation billions in lost income and in-work benefits. The 100-page report by Ed Sweeney, former Acas chair, marks the beginning of a pre-election push by Labour to address the concerns of Britain’s 30m workers. The report (the product of a nine month inquiry) examines the good […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Wales David Cameron’s efforts to prove how much he loves the NHS reveal how little he understands it

    David Cameron’s efforts to prove how much he loves the NHS reveal how little he understands it

    This week I was tempted to write about the fact that UKIP have befriended a holocaust denier in the European Parliament. But I really can’t abide any more pictures of Farage’s ridiculous face haunting about my doors, and so I’m not. You can just contemplate the disappointment of that thought yourselves. So let’s talk about something equally disheartening: PMQs – yes, the place where dignity goes to die. Fellow LabourList writer Maya Goodfellow ambivalently noted that Miliband had ‘landed a […]

    Read more →
  • News Woolf and May should “meet survivors groups” over Brittan links, say Labour

    Woolf and May should “meet survivors groups” over Brittan links, say Labour

    Labour have spoken out about complaints that Fiona Woolf QC, head of the public inquiry into historical sex abuse, has links with Leon Brittan. Brittan was the home secretary at the time when the dossier about alleged pedophiles went missing. And Woolf, who is also Lord Mayor of London, admitted yesterday that since 2008 she had dinner with Brittan and his family on five separate occasions but she has said she has “no close association” with him. A number of Labour MPs […]

    Read more →
  • Comment PMQs review: Miliband lands punch on NHS as leaders go through the motions

    PMQs review: Miliband lands punch on NHS as leaders go through the motions

    Here we are again. Another week, another Wednesday, and another wrangle between Cameron and Miliband about the NHS. This is getting a bit old. Cameron attempted to get Miliband on the back foot – he kicked off PMQs by posing questions to the Labour leader about the Welsh NHS. Rather predictably, the rest of PMQs descended into the two party leaders arguing about who can be more trusted with the NHS. But, there was something a little more sinister about […]

    Read more →
7ads6x98y