Workers Rally Against Controversial Anti-Union Legislation


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.

Union News 21st of May 2023


Welcome to Union News, the weekly podcast bringing you news from the Trade Union and labour movement in the UK. In this episode: Outsourced Hospital Cleaners and Caterers Demand Pay Rise in Demonstration at ISS Offices in London, Tube Workers in London Face Violence and Abuse Amidst Surge of Station Closures, Rise in Shoplifting Fuels Surge in Violence Against Shopworkers, and finally Teachers’ Union Warn of Further Strikes Unless Education Secretary Settles Dispute. Music is by Tim Bragg.

Outsourced Hospital Cleaners and Caterers Demand Pay Rise in Demonstration at ISS Offices in London

Hospital cleaners and caterers from the South London & Maudsley NHS Trust (SLaM) staged a demonstration outside ISS offices in Canary Wharf, London, demanding a pay rise. The four-day strike was initiated due to an unsatisfactory offer worth 30p. The protesters, comprising nearly 200 individuals, expressed their determination to fight until they receive the necessary and deserved pay. This ongoing dispute follows a previous 48-hour strike, during which the staff asserted that they were being paid 90p below the Real Living Wage. ISS expressed disappointment with the continuing strike action, citing their offer as higher than the London living wage.

Tube Workers in London Face Violence and Abuse Amidst Surge of Station Closures

The RMT union has issued a warning that tube workers in London are being subjected to threats of violence and verbal abuse following the closure of over 100 stations in a span of two months. The union has called on Transport for London (TfL) to halt its cuts program, which has resulted in repeated station closures and left staff vulnerable to frustrated passengers. Despite TfL’s significant funding reduction from central government, the union accuses Mayor Sadiq Khan of failing to challenge the ministers responsible. The RMT highlights the impact of staff cuts and an ineffective rostering system, with multiple stations experiencing closures and inadequate staffing. The shortage of staff has led to the transfer of workers to understaffed stations while others remain closed. The escalating verbal abuse and threats of violence have become commonplace, causing work-related stress and poor mental health among employees. The RMT emphasizes the urgent need for improvement to prevent serious physical assaults on its members, attributing the staff shortages to government budget cuts and the Mayor’s reluctance to address the financial strain on London’s transportation. TfL has been approached for comment.

Rise in Shoplifting Fuels Surge in Violence Against Shopworkers

Usdaw, a retail union, has raised concerns about an increase in violence against shopworkers in England and Wales driven by a rise in shoplifting incidents. Police crime statistics indicate a significant uptick in shoplifting across the two countries in the 12 months leading up to December 2022. The Office for National Statistics reveals a 31% increase in Wales, with Dyfed-Powys experiencing a 42% rise. Usdaw’s annual survey of over 7,500 shopworkers highlights that 31% of violence, threats, and abuse incidents were related to shoplifting in 2022. Usdaw’s general secretary, Paddy Lillis, emphasizes that shoplifting is not a victimless crime and explains the detrimental effects on shopworkers, including anxiety, fear, and physical harm. Lillis also attributes the increase in shoplifting incidents to the cost-of-living crisis, noting that theft from shops contributes to rising prices. Usdaw urges the government to facilitate coordination between retail employers, police, and the courts to ensure the safety of shopworkers and customers.

Picture attribution: Fair use,

Teachers’ Union Warn of Further Strikes Unless Education Secretary Settles Dispute

The National Education Union (NEU) has issued a warning that teachers are prepared to engage in additional strikes if Education Secretary Gillian Keegan fails to resolve the ongoing dispute by June 17. During their meeting on Thursday, the NEU’s national executive committee narrowly voted against announcing three strike dates, with the split being 28 in favor and 24 against.

Jenny Sutton, an NEU member from Hastings, expressed her disappointment with the decision, stating that it merely postpones the issue. Sutton emphasized the need for concrete action, stating, “The Tories have shown no willingness to compromise so far, and we require genuine action. Prolonging the process diminishes our momentum and makes it harder to bring new individuals into the movement.”

She further voiced concern that strikes may not occur until September, indicating that waiting for other unions to coordinate their strikes should not hinder the NEU’s actions. According to Sutton, being dependent on other unions’ decisions would limit their progress.

NEU members are currently participating in a ballot to renew their strike mandate, which is set to conclude on July 28.

Proposed Legislation Threatens Workers’ Right to Strike, Says Solidarity Union


The government’s proposed Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill has been criticised by Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of the Solidarity union, who believes that the legislation poses a threat to workers’ ability to protect their pay and working conditions through strike action. The bill grants Ministers the power to create regulations within six sectors, including health, education, and transport, which would compel workers to work during strikes. Employers would issue work notices specifying who must work and their assigned tasks. Failure to comply could result in worker dismissals and significant damages for unions. The first sectors to be affected would likely be ambulance services, fire departments, and rail networks, as the government aims to expedite the implementation of the new rules by summer.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) contends that this legislation undermines democracy by forcing workers to cross picket lines even if they have participated in a lawful strike vote. The government’s own analysis warns that the legislation may actually lead to an increase in strikes. It also overlooks the measures workers already take to ensure essential services are maintained during industrial action. Furthermore, the bill introduces the possibility of sacking workers for engaging in strike action that has been democratically approved, removing their protection from unfair dismissal within the first 12 weeks of a strike. This reversal of the government’s initial commitment to safeguard workers from penalties is seen as a severe infringement on individual freedoms.

The legislation also places significant burdens on unions. They are required to take “reasonable steps” to prevent their members identified in work notices from participating in strikes. Failure to do so may result in injunctions halting the strike or imposing substantial damages, costs that are ultimately borne by union members through their subscriptions. The cap for damages has recently been raised to £1 million. However, the legislation lacks clarity in defining what constitutes “reasonable steps,” leaving trade unions uncertain about their responsibilities. The TUC views this requirement as a significant encroachment on union freedoms.

While ministers argue that the proposed system aligns with those in France, Spain, and Italy, European unions disagree. The European Trades Union Congress contends that the UK already has some of the most restrictive strike regulations in Europe, and the government’s plans would further deviate from democratic norms observed across the continent.

The proposed legislation fails to address the concerns of workers who have endured a prolonged wage squeeze, with public sector employees experiencing more significant wage gaps compared to their private sector counterparts. For instance, NHS nurses’ real wages have decreased by £5,000 since 2010, while midwives and paramedics face a reduction of over £6,000. The bill offers no solutions for these workers or the ongoing industrial disputes they face. Additionally, it provides no support for the public, who have borne the consequences of austerity measures over the past decade.

Solidarity urges individuals to join the campaign and defend the right to strike, emphasizing that every working person is under attack from these proposed laws.

You can start by signing the petition here.

Emergency protest: Protect the right to strike

Join the TUC organised protest in Westminster this Monday to demand that MPs reject the Strikes Bill & to demand that opposition parties commit to repeal the Strikes Bill. Date Monday, 22 May 2023 – 18:00 to 20:00
Parliament Square
United Kingdom

Union News 14 May 2023

Watch Union News every week

Welcome to Union News, the podcast which brings you weekly reports from the labour and trade union movement in the UK. In this podcast TUC research finds high levels of harassment, bullying and verbal abuse towards young women at work, PCS members vote overwhelmingly for industrial action in re-ballot results, “Draw a line in the sand”: Firefighters call for routine health monitoring to combat cancer risk, Amazon Allegedly Hiring Hundreds of Workers to Break Strikes, and finally, TransPennine Express rail services taken under public control following failures and cancellations. Music in this episode is by Tim Bragg.

TUC research finds high levels of harassment, bullying and verbal abuse towards young women at work

According to a recent poll conducted by the TUC, 58% of women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment, bullying or verbal abuse at work. The figure rises to 62% for women aged between 25 and 34. The majority of women surveyed said that these incidents were not isolated, with over 60% having experienced three or more incidents of bullying at work. Many victims do not report these incidents due to fear of not being believed or damaging their career. The TUC has also accused some Conservative MPs and peers of attempting to sabotage the Worker Protection Bill, which aims to protect workers from sexual harassment and assault at work. TUC general secretary Paul Nowak has warned that these vital new protections are in danger of being delayed and derailed. The government has made amendments to the Bill to address concerns but has promised to study any further amendments in parliament.

PCS members vote overwhelmingly for industrial action in re-ballot results

PCS members in the civil service and related areas have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action. The union achieved a 88% ‘Yes’ vote for industrial action, with an overall 52% turnout, surpassing the legal threshold for action in 106 employer areas. PCS members can now take sustained, targeted strike action in any or all of these areas. The union is calling for a negotiated pay settlement and has criticized the government for treating its workforce like second-class citizens. Despite falling just short of the 50% threshold in some areas, including the DWP, the union anticipates re-balloting after consultation. The next steps in the campaign will be decided at the upcoming annual delegate conference in Brighton.

“Draw a line in the sand”: Firefighters call for routine health monitoring to combat cancer risk

Delegates at the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) 2023 conference overwhelmingly backed resolutions calling for routine health monitoring of front-line staff across the emergency service. This follows research commissioned by the FBU earlier this year that revealed firefighters are dying of cancer at 1.6 times the rate of the general population. The union’s campaign for “presumptive compensation legislation,” which is already in place in the US, Australia, and Canada, was also supported. Delegate Barry Jackson urged employers to deliver on their “moral obligation” to protect the workforce. FBU national officer Riccardo de la Torre criticised the denial of the evidence of the occupational hazards facing firefighters.

Amazon Allegedly Hiring Hundreds of Workers to Break Strikes

Amazon is allegedly hiring hundreds of new workers at its BHX4 fulfilment centre in Coventry to break strikes and prevent unionisation. The GMB union members at the centre are scheduled to strike on 24th and 26th May. Some workers at the site reported that as many as 200 new workers started on Saturday of last week. The company is hiring new staff on temporary six-month contracts, which has raised questions over whether this is an attempt to bypass union recognition. More than 700 workers have joined the union, meaning they have a legal right for their union to be officially recognised. The GMB has submitted a formal request for recognition to the Central Arbitration Committee. Workers at other fulfilment centres are planning to vote for strikes, and building united and escalating strikes is seen as the way to win.

and finally, TransPennine Express rail services taken under public control following failures and cancellations

TransPennine Express, owned by First Group, has become the latest rail operator to be taken under public control due to its failure to provide adequate services, leaving thousands of passengers stranded. TransPennine joins other failed rail services, including London North Eastern Railway, Northern, and Southeastern, under public control. Unions have reiterated their calls for the renationalisation of the whole rail network, while the government has pledged to reprivatise TransPennine once it returns to efficiency and profitability under public control. Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh reiterated Labour’s pledge to renationalise rail if elected to government.

Union News 10th of May 2023


Welcome to Union News, the podcast that brings you news from the Trade Union and labour movement in the UK. In this week’s episode: Amazon warehouse cleaners in Kent set to make history with union recognition deal, Glasgow airport staff to vote on strike action over below-inflation pay offer, and finally, Rail Workers in the UK Prepare for More Strikes Over Pay, Conditions and Job Security. Music is by Tim Bragg.

Amazon warehouse cleaners in Kent set to make history with union recognition deal

Cleaners at an Amazon warehouse in Kent, who are outsourced through contractor Phosters, are set to become the first British workers at an Amazon site to win union recognition, according to United Voices of the World (UVW). The staff have secured a concession from their bosses to negotiate a voluntary recognition deal, after they began balloting for strikes over pay. The UVW is demanding a minimum wage of £11.95 per hour. The news follows calls for Amazon to officially recognise the GMB union amid industrial action at its Coventry site, which could spread to other locations.

Glasgow airport staff to vote on strike action over below-inflation pay offer

Staff at Glasgow airport, employed by five different firms, are set to be balloted for strike action after rejecting below-inflation pay offers. Unite workers have refused pay awards that would leave hourly rates between £12.61 and £10.82 per hour. Unite industrial officer Pat McIlvogue warned that a “summer of travel chaos” could be on the horizon if the companies do not return with “fair and decent offers”. Glasgow airport is owned by AGS Airports, which is in ongoing dialogue with the union on pay discussions for this year.

and finally, Rail Workers in the UK Prepare for More Strikes Over Pay, Conditions and Job Security

Rail workers in the UK are preparing for strikes on Friday and Saturday as part of their ongoing struggle for better pay, working conditions and job security. Aslef train drivers’ union members will strike at 16 train operating companies on Friday, with more planned on 31 May and 3 June. Meanwhile, 20,000 RMT union members at 14 train companies will strike on Saturday. Train drivers have not had a pay increase since 2019 despite inflation running at 13.5%.

Union News 30th of April 2023


Welcome to Union News, the weekly podcast which brings you news from the Trade Union and labour movement. Music is by Tim Bragg. We start this week with footage from the great May Day Parade in Belfast.

May Day parades see big turnouts

May Day 2023 saw several trade union parades taking place across the UK, with thousands of workers participating in the events. The parades were held in various cities including London, Glasgow, Manchester, and Belfast, to name a few.

The May Day parades have a rich history, with roots dating back to the late 19th century when workers’ rights were being fought for. The day is celebrated in many countries around the world as a day to recognize and honor the contributions of workers to society.

In the UK, the day has taken on additional significance in recent years as workers face ongoing challenges such as low wages, insecure employment, and job losses. The parades serve as a platform for workers to voice their concerns and to demand better working conditions and fair pay.

The trade union movement has played a crucial role in protecting workers’ rights and has been instrumental in securing improvements in pay and working conditions. The parades provide an opportunity for trade unions to showcase their strength and solidarity and to demonstrate that they will continue to fight for workers’ rights.

The events were peaceful, and there were no reports of any significant disturbances. The police were present to ensure the safety of participants and spectators. The parades were also an opportunity for workers to come together and celebrate their achievements and to show that they are a vital part of society.

Over 130,000 Civil Servants Strike Against Government’s ‘Ideological War’ on Employees

Over 130,000 civil servants went on strike in protest against the government’s treatment of its employees regarding pay, jobs, and conditions. The strike affected 132 government departments and included passport office workers, tax inspectors, and benefits staff. The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) accused the government of waging an “ideological war” on civil servants and highlighted the lowest pay offer of all public-sector workers. PCS leaders cited the government’s bullying culture and treatment of its workforce as indicative of their broader attitude towards civil servants. The strike action continues next week in several government departments, including the Department for Work and Pensions and the Care Quality Commission, with further strikes planned across the public sector.

Education Unions Announce Unprecedented National Strike Action Over Pay and Funding Cuts

Four education unions in England have announced plans to coordinate national strike action over real-terms school funding cuts, crippling workloads, and plummeting take-home pay. The National Education Union (NEU) and NASUWT, alongside school leaders’ unions NAHT and ASCL, are set to send a clear signal to the Tory Education Secretary that their dispute is not going away. Strike action by NEU members on Thursday is set to continue next Tuesday and could escalate as the other three unions have announced their intention to ballot members this summer. The NEU had no choice but to act after the government did nothing to settle the long-running dispute, with 98% of its members rejecting the Department for Education’s latest “insulting” below-inflation wage offer in a recent ballot. Strikes in Scotland and Wales have been avoided following much-improved salary deals from devolved SNP and Labour ministers.

And finally, FBU urges Scottish and Welsh ministers to resist anti-strikes Bill

Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack has called on the Scottish and Welsh governments to resist the UK government’s anti-strike bill. In a letter to the Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf and his Welsh Labour counterpart Mark Drakeford, Wrack urged both administrations to convene summits with unions to plan a “united campaign of resistance against the authoritarian legislation.” The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which could enable bosses and ministers to dismiss employees who refuse to cross their picket lines, has suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords. Wrack called for a “mass movement of non-compliance” against the Bill.

End the prices crises!


The current surge in food prices, the fastest in 45 years, is causing a social emergency for millions of households in Britain due to inflation.

Tory government cuts since 2010 have already led to widespread hunger, as evidenced by the exponential growth of food banks. Despite media reports portraying the “cost-of-living crisis” as recent, it has been building for 15 years, with wages remaining stagnant below inflation. That’s why we use the plural of crisis, crises, as it isn’t just one but a series.

The Tory government has presided over a steady rise in child poverty and in-work poverty, disproving the notion that wages are driving inflation. Instead, monopolistic corporate giants are raising prices much faster than wholesale food prices. The food industry’s eight top UK manufacturers have made obscene profits of £22.9 billion, with Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda increasing their profits by 97% in 2021. Unite’s warning of a “greedflation” crisis points to the corporate profiteers responsible for the current crisis.

The lie that wages are driving inflation has been exposed in detail by the trade union movement, especially the invaluable economic studies published over the past year by Unite’s research unit Unite Investigates. Wages cannot be driving inflation when they are falling so far behind it — and have been doing so for over a decade.

The Solidarity union firmly rejects the notion that higher wages lead to inflation, and we refuse to accept real-term pay cuts for workers – meaning pay increases that don’t keep pace with rising prices. We believe that workers must continue to demand pay deals that match inflation and restorative pay deals to compensate for previous years of cuts, as seen in the case of Junior Doctors.

In private companies we welcome profit sharing as part of wage negotiations (as has been offered by Royal Mail) as well as consideration of a range of benefits in all sectors (such as the extension of free railway travel to rail staff).

Let’s get more French!


In recent times, there has been a noticeable increase in the level of militancy among British workers as they demand greater protection of their rights, fair pay and better conditions.

This development is encouraging and suggests that the British are beginning to emulate the French, who are known for their propensity to protest and strike when their wages, conditions, and pensions are under threat.

One striking example of French workers’ determination to defend their rights is the ongoing massive nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age by two years. The protests have been going on for many days, and various groups, including union confederations, the French Communist Party, and student unions, have all been central to the fight against the proposed attack on pension rights.

The determination of the French workers to continue protesting until their demands are met is a trait that British workers would do well to emulate. The recent increase in strikes and protests by British workers shows that they are beginning to take a leaf out of the French book in this regard. This is a positive development that bodes well for the future of workers’ rights in the UK.

While some may view these actions as disruptive, it is important to note that protests and strikes are essential tools for workers to protect their rights and improve their working conditions. By taking collective action, workers can exert pressure on employers and the government to address their concerns and ensure that they are treated fairly.

The growing militancy among British workers in their fight for their rights is a welcome sign that we may be getting more like the French. By emulating the French workers’ determination to defend their rights, British workers can ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are protected. Protests and strikes may be disruptive, but they are essential tools for workers to demand the respect and dignity that they deserve.