Catherine Rowett Caroline Lucas

This weekend, government plans to restrict strike action yet further were trailed in the Sunday Telegraph. The plans would see requirements for minimum service requirements on railways in the event of industrial action. This would force rail workers to cross picket lines and scab on their colleagues.

Trade unions responded to these proposals with fierce condemnation.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said, “Unite will confront head-on and by whatever means necessary, any further attacks on the right to strike.” She continued by saying, “If you force our legitimate activities outside of the law, then don’t expect us to play by the rules.”

Similarly strong comments were made by the rail union RMT. Its General Secretary Mick Lynch said, “Any attempt by Grant Shapps to make effective strike action illegal on the railways will be met with the fiercest resistance from RMT and the wider trade union movement.” He added, “we have not fought tooth and nail for railway workers since our forebears set up the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in 1872, in order to meekly accept a future where our members are prevented from legally withdrawing their labour.”

These sentiments have now also been echoed by prominent members of the Green Party of England and Wales.

Speaking to Bright Green, Catherine Rowett, the Green Party’s Work, Employment and Social Security Spokesperson, said the move is ‘typical of this oppressive dictatorial government’. She said,

Imposing ‘minimum service levels’ to prevent strikes is simply an acknowledgement that working conditions are unacceptable, and workers would be justified in striking if they were allowed to.

It’s a threat to hard won workers’ rights, and typical of this oppressive dictatorial government.

In any case it’s absurd to claw back money, by cutting safety and staffing. A climate conscious government would be increasing the subsidies.

Meanwhile, Matthew Hull – Chair of the Green Party Trade Union Group has also spoken out against the proposals. In an article for Bright Green, he wrote that the proposals are ‘straight from the pages of the Tory anti-union playbook’. Agreeing with Rowett’s argument that this is part of a wider anti-democratic tendency within the government, he wrote that the proposals are indicative of a ‘tsunami of repressive legislation that Boris Johnson’s government have sent crashing against the UK public.’ He concluded with a call to action – ‘Greens, progressives, socialists, social democrats, liberals too: it’s time to stand up and defend workers’ rights to organise.’

The government has mooted the changes to the laws around industrial action as the RMT is balloting its members for a national strike over the summer. If RMT members vote for strike action, over 40,000 rail workers could take strike action from as early as June, in a dispute over pay, job security and terms and conditions.

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