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‘Don’t be a P&O prime minister’ - TUC sends stark warning to Liz Truss on workers’ rights

LIZ TRUSS will face huge resistance from the labour movement if she tries to be a “P&O prime minister” by attacking workers’ rights, the TUC warned today.

General secretary Frances O’Grady said that her organisation was prepared to take the Tory government to court if Ms Truss, who was sworn in today as Boris Johnson’s successor, seeks to further curb the effectiveness of strike action. 

The TUC is “prepared to throw the kitchen sink” at protecting employment rights, including legislation on working hours, sick pay and health and safety, and has already taken legal advice, Ms O’Grady said.

Ahead of the the union confederation’s annual Congress in Brighton next week, Ms O’Grady urged Ms Truss not to embrace “P&O-style” tactics, a reference to the disgraced ferry operator’s sacking of nearly 800 seafarers without notice earlier this year.

Unions are gearing up for clashes with the new Tory Prime Minister amid reports that she plans to review workers’ rights and all laws which derive from European Union legislation in the wake of Brexit. 

Her pledge to crack down on industrial action amid Britain’s “summer of discontent” has already been condemned by union leaders, who warn that Ms Truss may raise the participation threshold for strike ballots to 50 per cent of the entire workforce and double the notice period before walkouts can take place from two to four weeks. 

Ms O’Grady said: “You can’t grow the economy by slashing workers’ rights and it’s telling that no serious business leader is clamouring to go down that path.

“If this government rips up workers’ rights, it will giving a green light to P&O-style rogue employers to skimp on pay and drive down workplace conditions in every corner of the country.

“Introducing the Trade Union Act [2016], slashing unfair dismissal rights and cutting corporate taxes left us with the longest pay squeeze for 200 years and forecasts of a recession that is set to last all next year.”

The TUC leader, who will be succeeded by current deputy general secretary Paul Nowak when she steps down in January, said that this summer’s lengthy Tory leadership contest had been a “terrible distraction” from the cost-of-living crisis and admitted that she had little confidence that Ms Truss would deliver for workers.

Unions must be given a voice in the battle to grow the economy, she insisted, noting that they have put forward a swathe of ideas to make working life better.

This would be a vote-winner as most people, including a majority of Tory voters, support bolstering workers’ rights, Ms O’Grady argued.

Of 3,000 adults recently polled by the TUC, three-quarters backed an end to widely condemned fire-and-rehire attacks on employees, while a similar number wanted zero-hours contracts banned.

Meanwhile, unions representing workers in Whitehall and across the Civil Service called on the new PM to “restore confidence that Parliament, and Westminster politics more broadly, is a safe place to work.”

Mike Clancy and Dave Penman, the leaders of the Prospect and FDA unions respectively, highlighted the many reports of sexual assault and misconduct as well as bullying and harassment by MPs during Mr Johnson’s curtailed premiership.

They demanded that Ms Truss “grasp the opportunity to make a break with the past and show the leadership necessary” to force a culture change.

Introducing a “formal mechanism to prevent MPs accused of serious sexual misconduct from attending Parliament” is a necessary first step, the general secretaries argued.

They also urged Ms Truss to reconsider her suggestion that she may not appoint a new independent adviser on ministers’ interests to replace Lord Geidt, who resigned in June in protest at the scandals surrounding her predecessor’s administration. 

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