12 January 2015
The Conservative party has pledged to restrict the ability to call public sector strikes after the general election.
The plans would mean 40% of eligible union members would have to vote in favour of the strike, rather than the majority of those balloted. The Tories would also end a ban on using agency staff to cover for striking workers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for action to take place and place curbs on picketing. They have also proposed a minimum 50% turnout in strike ballots.
The rank hypocrisy of the proposals has been repeatedly pointed out; last July even Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke, a member of the Trade Union Reform Campaign group of anti-union MPs, said that the policy was “difficult to justify when you don’t have that for Westminister elections” – indeed, not a single Tory MP would have been elected on the same criteria.
Responding to the plans, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Conservatives know that this threshold will effectively end the right to strike in the public sector. No democracy elsewhere in the world has this kind of restriction on industrial action. It is a democratic outrage, especially as the Conservatives have opposed allowing secure and secret online balloting – the one measure guaranteed to increase turnouts.
“We know they plan to get rid of a million public sector jobs and cut the value of public sector pay every year in the next parliament if they win the election. Now they are also going to make it impossible for public sector workers to resist.”
The plans come after a series of strikes in 2014, calling for higher public sector pay. Average wages are down by £50 a week in real terms since 2007 and 5 million people are earning less than the living wage. According to TUC research, public sector workers are more than £2000 worse of than when the Tories came to power.