Ambulance workers and NHS staff to strike days before Christmas
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is working on “tough new laws” to help protect the nation from strike action. He is reportedly planning to bring forward legislation to introduce minimum service levels across the public sector to limit disruption, a move backed by three-quarters of Express.co.uk readers in a new poll.
Thousands of workers across several sectors including the NHS, transport industry and postal service are preparing to take industrial action over the festive period in the largest series of strikes in a month since July 1989.
Mr Sunak spoke of the strikes during Prime Minister’s Questions on December 7, telling MPs: “The Government has been reasonable. It has accepted the recommendations of a pay review body, giving pay rises in many cases higher than the private sector.
“But if the union leaders continue to be unreasonable, then it is my duty to take action to protect the lives and livelihoods of the British public.
“That is why, since I became Prime Minister, I have been working for new tough laws to protect people from this disruption.”
READ MORE: Rishi Sunak pledges ‘tough’ new anti-strike laws to protect the public
Three-quarters of Express.co.uk readers support Rishi Sunak’s plans
He intends to extend the minimum service levels across the public sector. The Government announced that plans would require 20 percent of regular rail services to continue during industrial action.
Ministers are also looking to increase the threshold for strike action from 40 percent to 50 percent of union members voting in favour.
In addition, the notice period for industrial action could be increased from 14 days and the six-month limit after a successful ballot could be reduced.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government’s work was “ongoing” but that “we want to do it at speed”.
He said: “We keep the powers under review and obviously in light of what we are seeing with effectively rolling strikes, the prime minister thinks it is right to push ahead with new powers.”
In a poll that ran from 10am on Wednesday, December 7, to 1.30pm on Friday, December 9, Express.co.uk asked readers: “Should Rishi Sunak impose anti-strike legislation?”
Overall, 3,539 people responded with the vast majority, 74 percent (2,627 people), answering “yes” in favour of anti-strike legislation.
However, 25 percent (891 people) said “no” against it, while a further 21 people said they did not know either way.
Hundreds of comments were left below the accompanying article as readers shared their thoughts on the strikes.
Minimum service on the railways would require 20 percent of regular services during strikes
Many readers commented in support of Mr Sunak introducing new legislation on industrial action to help manage disruption to the country.
Username nm2 said: “Yes he should impose restrictions.”
Username justmy2cents said: “Yes! so absolutely. We will not have a return to the 70s and the chaos.”
While username DoggyPaws wrote: “Many of these services are life-threatening and so Sunak should ensure they don’t all strike during the winter.”
Postal workers are scheduled to strike in the run-up to Christmas
Whereas other readers argued that the right to strike needed to be protected. Username Woody934 commented: “We are a democratic country.”
Username fkc3rd said: “It is every worker’s right to withdraw their labour! When protest becomes outlawed and the public is denied representation then there is no choice.”
Similarly, username NorthernGeezer said: “Working men have fought for hundreds of years to gain some sort of traction over the bosses, now is NOT the time to remove those rights!”
And username Ragglefant said: “Anti strike legislation will lead to civil unrest.”
Sir Keir Starmer said that Mr Sunak should ‘stop grandstanding’
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Rather than attempting cheap political potshots, the Government should be getting around the table and negotiating with unions about pay.”
And Sharon Graham, General Secretary of the Unite union, said: “Rather than dealing with…workers suffering pay cuts as prices rocket, he [Rishi Sunak] promises to attack the very organisations fighting for workers and putting more money in their pockets. If they put more hurdles in our way, then we will jump over them. We are ready industrially and financially.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has blasted Mr Sunak, saying the Prime Minister should “stop grandstanding, stop sitting on his hands, get round the table and resolve these issues”.
The Labour Party has pledged to oppose the “unworkable” minimum service levels legislation but a spokeswoman said she could not commit to repealing it if the party took power as the laws had not yet been brought in.