Sharon Graham has warned that proposals put forward by Liz Truss to crackdown on industrial action are nothing short of a “declaration of war on the trade union movement and working people”.
The Conservative leadership candidate has said she would legislate for minimum service levels on critical national infrastructure in the first 30 days of government if elected Tory leader and Prime Minister. This is an extension of the 2019 Tory manifesto, which said minimum service should operate during transport strikes.
Commenting on the plan, which could teachers, postal workers and those working in the energy sector restricted, Unite’s general secretary described the “madcap” proposals as an “attempt to outlaw strike action and effective trade unions”.
“This so-called manifesto is a declaration of war on the trade union movement and working people. In effect, it is a charter for massive social discontent,” she said.
“What we have here is an ambitious politician, hawking for the votes of a tiny minority by putting the rights of all workers on the chopping block. At the time of a cost-of-living crisis, where profiteering not wages is driving inflation, this would-be Prime Minister has instead chosen to return Britain’s workplaces to the 19th century.
“It’s Charles Dickens meets 2022. Unite will not bow to threats and bullying and any attempt to make our fight for jobs, pay and conditions illegal will be met with fierce, prolonged resistance.”
The Tory leadership hopeful has also promised to raise the threshold strike ballots must reach from 40% of employees to 50%, effectively making it much harder to strike in smaller workplaces where reaching the threshold requires a very high number to vote in favour if there is not full turnout.
Her comments come ahead of planned action due to take place on Wednesday when thousands of RMT members at Network Rail and 14 train operators go on strike. Further rail strikes involving the TSSA and ASLEF are expected this month. Royal Mail and BT workers have also voted for strike action this summer.
The TUC this week accused Grant Shapps of preventing negotiations from taking place that could avert the rail strikes after legal advice stated that the Secretary of State for Transport has “very significant contractual power” to direct how industrial disputes are handled.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch described the proposals from Truss as “the biggest attack on trade union and civil rights since labour unions were legalised in 1871”, arguing that she is “proposing to make effective trade unionism illegal in Britain and to rob working people of a key democratic right”.
“If these proposals become law, there will be the biggest resistance mounted by the entire trade union movement, rivalling the general strike of 1926, the Suffragettes and Chartism,” he warned.
Teaching and health unions have also warned of potential strike action over the latest pay offers. NHS staff are to receive a rise of at least 4.5%, while teachers will have at least a 5% increase. Inflation is currently running at 9.1% and is expected to rise to 11% later this year, according to the Bank of England.