Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the union would fight back against any attacks on the right to strike after the government indicated it may look to introduce new restrictions on transport strikes.
As tens of thousands of RMT members vote on whether to take industrial action, with ballot results expected on Wednesday (May 25), transport secretary Grant Shapps highlighted a previous Conservative party manifesto that severely hamper transport strikes through minimum service levels.
“We had a pledge in there about minimum service levels,” he told the Telegraph on Saturday. “If [strikes] really got to that point, then minimum service levels would be a way to work towards protecting those freight routes and those sorts of things.”
Responding to the news, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Unite will confront head-on and by whatever means necessary, any further attacks on the right to strike.
“In Britain we already operate under the most restrictive labour laws in Western Europe. A workers’ right to withdraw their labour is inalienable in any democracy worth its name,” she added. “This is a cynical, authoritarian move designed to protect corporate profits and has been wheeled out to satisfy the needs of short-term factional politics.
“While corporations make billions and ordinary working people suffer, this government chooses to attack the rights of British workers,” Graham continued. “When P&O, a billion dollar company owned by a foreign dictatorship, brutally sacked 800 British workers, they broke the law. The government’s response was a fine.
“When British workers threaten to defend their living standards in the face of a cost of living crisis not of their making, this government threatens to takes away their democratic rights.
“We are now forced to put the government on notice,” Graham added. “Unite will not sacrifice the protection of our members’ jobs, pay and conditions on the altar of ‘party gate’. If you force our legitimate activities outside of the law, then don’t expect us to play by the rules.
“And Labour now needs to stand up and be counted. I don’t want hard-to-believe promises for the future; we need concrete action now. This is an attack on working people and on the whole of the labour movement. It’s time for the political wing that was founded by and continues to be funded by our members to step up to the plate.”
By UniteLive team