Activism

Unions call ‘emergency’ protest outside Downing Street over anti-strike law

Campaigners will also protest outside MPs’ offices on Saturday

Signs that read "Join a union today" and "Squeeze back" are held up by protestors

Signs at a trade union rally over low pay and the cost of living. Image: Eliza Pitkin / The Big Issue

Trade unions have called an “emergency” protest outside Downing Street on Monday over the government’s new anti-strike legislation.

Campaigners associated with the Enough Is Enough campaign will gather at 6pm, to mark the second reading of the bill, and will also protest outside a handful of MPs’ offices on Saturday.

Protesters will target the offices of four Conservative MPs, including Grant Shapps, the minister in charge of business and industrial strategy.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) bill was introduced by the government as strikes across railways, ambulances, and postal workers mark a five-year high for industrial action. Staff who do not maintain a “minimum service” during strike action could lose their jobs.

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Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT union, called the law a “nasty anti-worker bill” which is “designed to repress and make very difficult our right to strike in this country”.

He added the protest would “show we’re ready to fight back on behalf of working people against this piece of nasty legislation”.

Unveiled in response to a wave of strikes, the new law would “completely undermine the purpose of striking, and will make it much harder for workers to exercise their basic rights”, warned Jun Pang of human rights group Liberty.

The government’s own impact assessment for the bill admits it could even make strikes worse.

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“A similar risk is an increased frequency of strikes following a Minimum Service Level being agreed,” the document, produced to measure the costs and benefits of the bill, read.

“This would reduce the overall impact of the policy as although service levels would likely be higher than the baseline, it could mean that an increased number of strikes could ultimately result in more adverse impacts in the long term.”

Lynch is one of the leading figures in Enough Is Enough, a movement set up in response to the cost of living crisis by trade unions, food banks, and MPs.

The group said Monday’s Downing Street protest “needs to be massive to send a message to the government”.

As the bill makes its way through Parliament, the Trades Union Congress has also announced a “national right to strike day”, taking place on February 1, calling the bill “unworkable and almost certainly illegal”.

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