Liz Truss is planning a bonfire of workers’ rights in response to the fight back against wage cuts.
She wants to make it impossible for trade unions to defend the rights of their members, negotiate better pay and improve working conditions.
This is a direct attack on our right to stand up for ourselves at work, and it will make it harder for us to get the pay and conditions we deserve.
We need to fight back against these plans, and defend our rights to fair pay and decent working conditions.
Truss is considering:
- Increasing the current threshold percentage ballot turnout (in addition to a majority vote in favour). This measure is aimed at making it even more difficult to obtain a yes vote for a strike.
- Giving powers to a minister to outlaw any industrial action deemed to pose a “national emergency.” This measure could be interpreted widely to prevent many workers striking at all.
- Raising the threshold percentage of votes in favour of strikes needed to call one under the 2016 Act in “important public services” (i.e., the “key workers” who the government clapped and praised during lockdown).
- Raising notice of industrial action from four weeks’ (instead of two). This would make it easier for employers to plan ahead (for example to arrange scab labour) and make it difficult for workers to take impromptu and effective action.
- Limiting the time period that a ballot authorising industrial action will be valid for only one occurrence of strike action within the current permitted six-month period. A measure at breaking the momentum of strikes and limiting the flexibility unions have in picking dates for action.
- Reducing the six-months a ballot for strike action is valid to three. Introducing a mandatory cooling off period of 60 days and a “dispute resolution process” after each strike action. This is aimed at breaking the momentum of strike action .
- Limiting the number of pickets permitted in the vicinity of “critical national infrastructure.” This measure is another aimed at reducing the effect of pickets and could be interpreted very widely to limit freedom of assembly.
- Prohibiting ‘Inflammatory and intimidatory’ language on picket lines. This is aimed at preventing calling strikebreakers “scabs” presumably but might be widened to limit all kinds of free expression.
- Forcing unions to to put comments from the Bosses on ballot papers for a strike. This is aimed at undermining votes in favour of strike action by allowing Bosses to put bribes and threats on the ballot paper.
- Taxing any strike pay by unions to their members. This is aimed at reducing strike pay from unions to further place financial strain on strikers and force them back to work.
- Entitling employers to by-pass collective (where it exists) by making offers directly to union members. This would enable bosses to try to split support for strike action by offering bribes either to the workforce as a whole or to sections of it.
Holiday pay may also be under attack according to leaks. Statutory holiday pay could be removed altogether, or the number of days cut, or the amount payable reduced.
Or employers could be allowed to roll up holiday pay with ordinary pay so that the employer can say “we won’t pay you during holidays because we’ve already priced your holiday into your wages, and it’s up to you to make the necessary savings each week.”
No wonder that unions and workers are preparing for a fight. The UK already has some of the most restrictive laws in the world that unions have to work under. Now, Truss wants to make it even more difficult for them to function. Faced with attacks workers must mobilise to defend their livelihoods and rights. Solidarity union, along with others, has called for co-ordinated strike action and protests. The time to act is now.