Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has proposed tougher restrictions on unions, in a move the Royal College of Nursing, which is soon to vote for members on a possible strike, has described as “deeply undemocratic”.
In a speech today focused on promoting growth and recovery in the UK – called the ‘mini-budget’ – Mr Kwarteng said that “at such a critical time for our economy, it is simply unacceptable that strikes disrupt so many lives”. .
The RCN will vote with more than 300,000 members on Agenda for Change contracts in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in October and November.
This summer has seen industrial action by workers at Royal Mail, National Rail, Transport for London and members of communications workers’ and teachers’ unions.
In July, during her leadership campaign, Premier Liz Truss pledged to crack down on unions by raising the minimum voting threshold from 40% to 50%. The unions said Nursing in practice it would be a “direct and unwarranted attack on people’s right to take industrial action”.
Kwasi Kwarteng told Parliament today that ‘other European countries have minimum service levels to prevent militant unions from shutting down transport networks during strikes’. So we will do the same. And we will go further.
“We will legislate to require unions to put wage offers to a member vote, to ensure that strikes can only be called once negotiations have actually broken down.”
If this legislation were passed, the industrial action ballot currently being conducted by the RCN in the UK would likely be illegal under the new laws, since the NCR in England has moved to an industrial action ballot without a member vote on the wage offer, as happened in Scotland.
Pat Cullen, General Secretary of the RCN, said: ‘It not only seems deeply undemocratic but also inaccurate in relation to the way the NHS salary is decided – there are no negotiations; the government imposes a salary announcement without notice.
“Health professionals already face draconian anti-union laws. Silencing health workers also silences the voice of patients.