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MORE than 50 human rights and civil liberties groups slammed the Tory government’s new anti-strike legislation today as an attack on the fundamental right to take industrial action.
An open letter, penned by groups including Liberty, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, said the proposals would allow “a further significant and unjustified intrusion by the state into the freedom of association and assembly.”
Ministers prepared to rush the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill through its final stages in the Commons last night, claiming public services need safeguarding amid the biggest strike wave in decades.
But unions warn the legislation would empower bosses to sack striking workers if they refuse to break their own legally held walkouts by providing a certain level of services across key sectors, including health, transport and education.
The “authoritarian” move was slammed by the Enough is Enough campaign and the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom, which were due to bring trade unionists, rights groups and justice campaigners together for a protest opposite 10 Downing Street after the Morning Star went to press.
Today’s open letter, also signed by Global Justice Now and the End Violence Against Women Coalition, warned of the “enormous scope” the Bill would give ministers to make unilateral decisions on minimum service levels and other key provisions.
The intervention was welcomed by the TUC, which launched a freedom of information request to discover why the government published the legislation without a required impact assessment.
General secretary Paul Nowak said: “Ministers are launching a brazen attack on the right to strike — a fundamental British liberty.
“This draconian legislation would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they can be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.
“It is little wonder that civil liberties organisations up and down the country are lining up to condemn this spiteful Bill.
“It is undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal. And crucially it will likely poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them.”
Mr Nowak accused ministers of attempting to “railroad it through Parliament without proper scrutiny or consultation.
“It is shameful that parliamentarians are being forced to vote blindly on such far-reaching new laws.”
He urged MPs “from all parties to vote against this nasty Bill.”
Labour blasted the “shoddy, unworkable and vindictive piece of legislation,” which it branded the “sacking nurses Bill.”
The party said it would propose an amendment which would safeguard unfair dismissal protections and “force Conservative MPs to choose whether to safeguard them or rip up key workers’ protections.”
It also pledged to force Business Secretary Grant Shapps to undertake a comprehensive impact assessment on the proposals, including on workforce numbers, employers and equality law.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “The Conservatives are seeking to rush this ill-conceived Bill through Parliament without proper scrutiny and proposing to hand arbitrary powers to ministers.
“They have failed to consider the risk this worsens the recruitment and retention crisis, increases the bureaucratic burden on employers or opens the door for discrimination against key workers.
“Labour is looking to force them to go back to the drawing board with this dog’s dinner of a Bill that will do nothing to resolve disputes and instead risks pouring petrol on the fire.”
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