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Employment

Keir Starmer says Labour would tear up anti-trade union laws and defend the right to strike

Keir Starmer says he "unequivocally supports the right to strike" as the government announces legislation to undermine striking railway workers

Keir Starmer tells trade unions that a Labour government would strength their role in society. Image: TUC

Keir Starmer has said Labour will tear up any laws passed by the government undermining the right to strike if the party wins the next general election.

In a swooping commitment to strengthening workers’ rights, he also promised to end “fire and rehire” – after the government blocked a bill to ban the practice – and binning controversial zero-hour contracts.

“If they bring forward further attacks on workers’ right to strike we will oppose and we will repeal,” he told the Trades Union Congress in Brighton.

“I support the right to strike, unequivocally. I understand it’s always a last resort”, he added.

The pledge comes as Liz Truss’s government announces plans to ensure some trains will run during rail strikes, seeking to undermine the disruption caused by unions taking industrial action.

“Hardworking people and businesses should not be held to ransom by strike action which has repeatedly crippled our transport network this year”, she said on the bill’s announcement.

Railways union RMT called the proposed legislation an “attempt to clamp down on the fundamental human right to strike“.

“This cynical piece of legislation outlaws effective legal industrial action on our railways,” said union leader Mick Lynch.

“It is an autocratic move from an increasingly despotic Prime Minister trying to cling on to her fledging premiership.

“RMT and the entire trade union movement will not accept unjust anti union laws and I call upon all workers in Britain to mount the fiercest civil resistance possible, in the proud traditions of the chartists and suffragettes.”

The Trade Unions Congress committed to oppose the proposals “every step of the way.”

“These proposals will undermine the right to strike. This is a naked attempt to stop transport workers taking action for better pay and conditions”, said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady. 

Starmer pledged to extend parental leave, improve protections for pregnant women, strengthen flexible working laws, offer sick pay to all workers and make ethnicity pay gap reports mandatory.

He also said Labour would repeal the 2016 Trade Union Act which puts restrictions on how trade unions can take industrial action and fund political parties.

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