With rail workers striking, along with Royal Mail staff, barristers, teachers and potentially NHS nurses also expected to take industrial action, the government has been criticised for pledging to legislate to prevent strikes.
The mini-Budget on 23 September revealed government plans to make it more difficult for workers to strike – a move which, according to IWORK, the body that champions temps and the self-employed, will result in a “severe backlash” and lead to greater disruption and walkouts.
As part of The Growth Plan 2022, the government announced it intends to introduce legislation that ensures minimum service levels in the transport industry, specifically, can be met in the event of a strike. It will also roll out legislation to “make it easier to settle industrial disputes by ensuring meaningful employer pay offers are put to employees”.
However, this move has drawn widespread criticism from unions, along with IWORK. It proposes that unions must put all pay offers to a member vote before a strike can be held. This runs the risk of management stepping in at the last minute with a new proposal which has minimal changes but that forces a ballot to take place, effectively delaying strikes.
Commenting on the government’s intention to stop what Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng described as “militant trade unions closing down transport networks,” IWORK’s Julia Kermode said, “This government just doesn’t seem to get it. Workers don’t strike for fun. It’s the last resort – a final attempt to be heard and taken seriously.
“By enforcing short-sighted legislation that makes it more difficult for workers to take industrial action, this government risks a severe backlash and ultimately, greater disruption. It will erode workers’ rights at a time when thousands already feel they are being overlooked and ignored.
“The direction of travel for the current government is very concerning. They seem hellbent on making life more difficult for workers – whether that’s permanent staff considering strike action or temporary workers being drafted in at the last minute to keep these services running.
“For example, as recently as July, controversial legislation was approved to allow agency workers to plug gaps and step in for those on strike. Unions have criticised this, saying it contravenes The European Convention on Human Rights. But whichever side of the fence you sit on, there’s no denying that care must be taken to ensure that temporary workers drafted in fully understand the situation.
“Temps may be walking into hostile environments by crossing picket lines and it would be irresponsible not to make them aware of that. However, as temps may prefer to decline the work, I am worried that they won’t be informed or won’t have any choice about accepting the work if they need the income.
“With more strikes expected, recruitment agencies, employment agencies and the organisations engaging these workers have a responsibility to make sure temps are clear on the conditions they can expect and are treated fairly.”