Angela Rayner has launched an attack on Rishi Sunak’s new strike legislation, accusing the Prime Minister of “stoking up tensions”. The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party said it is “ridiculous what the Government is doing”. This comes as the Government prepares to unveil new wide-ranging powers to crack down on strike action.
The new law, which was introduced to the House of Commons earlier today, will set “minimum safety levels” for several industries, limiting their ability to take industrial action.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government “absolutely believes in the right to strike” but is “duty bound” to protect the lives and livelihoods of the public.
He added: “We don’t want to use this legislation but we must ensure the safety of the British public.”
But union bosses have dismissed the plans as “undemocratic” and “unworkable”.
Earlier today, head of the Trades Union Congress, Paul Nowak, said that if it became law the legislation would “prolong disputes and poison industrial relations – leading to more frequent strikes”.
He added: “This legislation would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they can be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.
“That’s undemocratic, unworkable, and almost certainly illegal.”
Meanwhile, Ms Rayner told Beth Rigby interviews: “Well the Government’s own assessment says it won’t work.
“This legislation they want to bring in is actually stoking up tensions.”
She added: “It’s ridiculous what the Government doing. They’ve stoked up the tensions they deliberately tried to make a strawman over the strike actions.
“This Government has closed down talks, thrown spanners in the works at the last minute and have deliberately tried to stoke up the tensions and then say it’s the union barons fault.
“The unions want to find a negotiated settlement. They did in Wales and we would deliver that as a Labour Government and we can see that the challenges that working people face today on inflation, on the cost of living are because of this mismanagement of the economy, because of this Government, and Labour will change that.
“So we will make the economy grow, we will deliver for public services and we will negotiate with the trade unions in a constructive way.”
Sir Keir Starmer said he would repeal the legislation if Labour came to power.
The Labour leader said: “I don’t think this legislation is going to work and I’m pretty sure they’ve had an assessment that tells them that. It’s likely to make a bad situation worse.”
He said his party would evaluate what proposals the Government brings forward, continuing: “But if it’s further restrictions, then we will repeal it.”
The new laws will primarily affect fire, ambulance and rail services, for which “minimum safety levels” will be set during times of industrial action.
The bill will also cover “health services, education, nuclear decommissioning, other transport services and border security”, for which the Government says it “expects to continue to reach voluntary agreements, and would only look to consult on minimum safety levels should these voluntary positions not be agreed”.
Mr Shapps said the Government would still “protect the freedom to strike”, whilst also looking to safeguard “life and livelihoods”.
He said the measures were being introduced to “restore the balance between those seeking to strike and protecting the public from disproportionate disruption”.