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United Kingdom: Faced with social protest, the Sunak government is accused of wanting to limit the right to strike


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government dubbed it the “minimum service” bill. It aims to establish, as its name suggests, a minimum service in the event of a strike in a multitude of public services. For the unions, it is an “anti-strike” text, a “frontal attack on workers and unions”. The Labor Party even calls it a “law to fire nurses” (“sacking nurses bill”) and has promised to get rid of it if he wins power in the next general election – which is likely if the polls continue to give him a twenty point lead over the Tories in 2024.

Tabled in Parliament on January 10, this controversial text which toughens already very restrictive British legislation on work stoppages was adopted at last reading in the House of Commons, where the Conservatives still have a majority of 68 votes, Monday January 30. Its passage through the House of Lords is likely to be more uneven: the Upper House of Westminster has been very protective of human rights and freedoms in recent months. the TUC, the British trade union confederation, calls for a national mobilization against this ” awful ” project wednesday 1er february.

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The text provides that in the sectors of health, education, firefighting, transport, customs, nuclear installations, employers can define the number of workers who must remain at their posts in the event of a strike , without however claiming “more staff” what a minimum level of service ” within reason “ would require, without specifying what he means by ” within reason “. Unions and striking personnel should comply with these requirements or face legal action. “The government is introducing this legislation to ensure that strikers do not put citizens’ lives at risk, or prevent them from going to work, accessing their healthcare system or going about their daily lives in safety. », supports Downing Street.

“A Bad Fight”

“If this law passes, a worker who voted to strike risks being fired if he actually stops work. The government says it is acting for the safety of the British, but it is a lie: those who endanger this country are Rishi Sunak, Steve Barclay [le ministre de la santé] or Jeremy Hunt [le chancelier de l’Echiquier]who deny decent pay rises to civil servants,” claimed Paul Nowak, the secretary general of the TUC, during a first mobilization against the text, on January 16. ” We We will fight tooth and nail to protect our right to strike,” added the trade unionist, very incisive, facing several thousand demonstrators brandishing banners “Protect the right to strike” (“protect the right to strike”) opposite Downing Street.

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