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THE trade union movement must build a mass campaign of resistance to defy the Tory government’s “pernicious and draconian” anti-strike legislation, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is demanding today.
General secretary Matt Wrack urged “mass non-co-operation and non-compliance” with the widely condemned Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which is currently at committee stage in the Lords after being rushed through the Commons earlier this year.
The proposals would empower bosses, and even ministers, to sack workers who refuse to cross their own picket lines and provide an as yet undefined minimum service level during walkouts across six key sectors, including health, education and public transport.
The government claims the move would only bring the country into line with European neighbours which already have minimum service level legislation on statute books.
But nine continental unions, representing 20 million workers, have warned that Westminster’s plans to give itself the power to dictate service requirements would leave Britain an “anti-democratic outlier” as ministers in Spain, Italy and elsewhere are obliged to consult unions over the provisions.
Mr Wrack, who slammed the Bill as the “most draconian attack on the rights of working people in decades,” welcomed a new motion from the FBU’s executive council which called on the TUC to organise an emergency congress to launch a “mass movement to resist the legislation.”
National demonstrations and sustained mass mobilisations on a par with the massive 1984-85 miners’ strike are needed to defeat the legislation, he stressed.
The union leader said: “This Bill is a pernicious piece of legislation that’s in keeping with authoritarian regimes around the world.
“The government is deliberately attempting to strengthen the position of employers and severely weaken the position of workers. They are doing this for one purpose — to drive down wages.
“Ministers are bulldozing this anti-worker legislation through Parliament and riding roughshod over the democratic process by seeking to avoid scrutiny.
“The FBU will fiercely resist this onslaught on our democratic rights, but it’s an attack on all workers.
“A mass movement of non-compliance can defeat this attack on working people by making the legislation unworkable.”
The TUC, which has described the Bill as “undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal,” must “lead this movement of resistance, first by calling an emergency congress, followed by a national demonstration and a sustained campaign of non-co-operation,” he added.
“A unified strategy of mass resistance can make this law inoperable and stop it dead in its tracks.”
Devolved Labour and SNP administrations in Wales and Scotland respectively have joined most unions in condemning the proposals, while an independent government watchdog has blasted the legislation as “not fit for purpose.”
The regulatory policy committee, comprised of independent experts assembled by the Department for Business and Trade, slapped a rare “red rating” on Downing Street’s impact assessment of the Bill last month, saying it “lacks sufficient evidence and is based on assumptions.”
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