Activists gathered outside Parliament to protest the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill yesterday evening. The Bill is a piece of legislation criticised for undermining workers’ rights. The bill aims to empower employers and even ministers to dismiss essential sector workers who refuse to cross their own picket lines and enforce a vague “minimum service level” during strikes. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) warned that approximately 5.5 million workers could be affected by the proposed law.
The legislation has faced widespread condemnation from MPs, peers, employers, international rights groups, and unions across Europe. Labour, pledging to repeal the bill as soon as possible, strongly opposes it. TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak criticized the bill, stating that it is undemocratic, unworkable, and likely unlawful. He urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to abandon the bill and safeguard workers’ right to strike.
Supporting the opposition, Fire Brigades Union head Matt Wrack argued that the UK already has restrictive anti-union laws, which have resulted in declining wages and increased exploitation. He emphasized that workers are rising against the hard-right government, highlighting the need for negotiation rather than dismissal and victimization.
The bill faced amendments in the House of Lords, including the removal of consequences for workers who do not comply with work notices and exemptions for Wales and Scotland. Pressure is expected to be exerted on Tory MPs by Downing Street to reject these amendments.
The rally outside Parliament brought together around 600 activists from various unions, including GMB, Unite, CWU, Equity, and RMT. Protesters voiced their concerns over the erosion of workers’ rights and the broader crackdown on dissenting voices. They emphasized the need to defend the right to strike and denounced the Tories’ attempts to make strikes virtually impossible.
While some speakers called for electing a Labour government to repeal the legislation, others expressed skepticism and highlighted the importance of continued industrial action. Union leaders, such as the RMT general secretary, vowed to resist the new laws and urged unions to engage in acts of disobedience and defiance.
It is crucial for workers and unions to translate their words into action to effectively challenge and overcome these restrictive laws. The fight against the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill requires a sustained and united effort to protect workers’ rights and improve their working conditions.