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Protect the right to strike! Usdaw calls on Peers to again challenge the Government’s anti-union Bill after ILO concerns

Date: 04 July 2023 Retail trade union Usdaw is calling on the Government to drop their Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill and break the deadlock on this controversial legislation. Today (4 July) the House of Lords will consider the Bill again after the Government and Conservative MPs blocked amendments made by Peers for a second time, as the parliamentary ‘ping-pong’ continues.
The International Labour Organization (ILO), a United Nations (UN) agency, said the UK needed to “ensure that existing and prospective legislation is in conformity” with international rules on freedom of association and added that the Government must seek technical assistance from the agency’s experts.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “This is the first opportunity for the House of Lords to consider the Bill after a rare ILO rare intervention, which amounts to an embarrassing criticism of the Government’s approach. These concerns must be taken seriously and this Bill needs to at least be paused while ILO advice is sought, if not dropped altogether.
“Usdaw supports Peers’ changes, but we still believe this legislation is fundamentally flawed and should be rejected. This anti-union legislation means that when workers democratically vote to strike, they could be forced to work and sacked if they don’t. That is undemocratic, unworkable and we believe illegal. It is a direct attack on working people’s ability to defend their pay, along with other terms and conditions.
“It is essential that we protect the right to strike. So, we urge the Government to step back from this unwanted legislation, which seeks to undermine workers’ rights. Far from preventing strikes, the Bill risks poisoning industrial relations and escalating disputes.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 350,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades www.usdaw.org.uk
Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill would allow Government Ministers, by regulation, to impose minimum service levels on services during strikes in six sectors, including schools, the NHS, fire, rail and transport. A work notice issued by the employer would name those individuals required to work and the duties to be undertaken. Those workers deemed to have breached a work notice would lose the legal protection usually given to strikers and could be sacked.
At the House of Lords report stage of the Bill, a combination of Labour, Lib Dem, crossbench peers and bishops voted in support of amendments that tempered the worst bits of this terrible legislation. The House Commons only accepted a Government amendment, so that an employer must not have regard in respect of trade union membership and activities when deciding whether to identify a person in a work notice. All amendments from the Lords have been rejected twice by Conservative MPs. As the so-called ‘ping-pong’ continues, on 4 July Peers will consider whether to press their amendments for a third time. They are calling for:
  • More consultation and parliamentary scrutiny.
  • Preventing individual workers being sacked for refusing to break strikes.
  • Stopping unions having to force members to comply with minimum service levels.
TUC protect the right to strike campaign: www.tuc.org.uk/ProtectRightToStrike
Parliamentary ‘ping-pong’: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/passagebill/lords/lrds-consideration-of-amendments/
ILO Committee on the Application of Standards (pages 15 and 16):
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers