Lisa Nandy MP: New law is clear attack on workers

In recent weeks, ambulance workers in Wigan have gone on their first major strike in 30 years and nurses have held the first national strike in their history.
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It follows similar action by rail staff, postal workers and BT Openreach workers.

Teachers have just voted in support of strike action and civil servants are also set to strike next month.

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Nobody wants to see these strikes happen, not least the workers who lose a day’s pay every time they strike.

Wigan MP Lisa NandyWigan MP Lisa Nandy
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

But a decade of underinvestment in our public services and spiralling living costs has meant many workers are facing the prospect of struggling to feed their families.

With the Government refusing to negotiate, or in some cases even meet trade unions, many workers are now resorting to strike action simply to get their voices heard.

Staff and managers at Wigan Infirmary have prepared thoroughly for the unprecedented NHS strikes.

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When I visited Wigan Infirmary recently both the staff and management I spoke to left me in no doubt that those taking action are standing up not just for themselves, but for the very future of the NHS and those who depend on it.

The Government should be moving heaven and earth to negotiate an end to the current wave of strikes.

We need Ministers to sit down around the table and to treat our public sector workers like partners not enemies.

Unfortunately, their scorched-earth approach to industrial relations has only made things worse. At every stage they’ve sought to collapse talks and thrown in last minute obstacles to reaching deals.

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Now the Government is playing politics again by introducing new anti-strike legislation to Parliament which was voted through by Tory MPs on Monday.

This law will allow bosses in health, education, fire, ambulance and rail services to sue unions and sack employees if unclear minimum service levels are not met.

This is a clear attack on the fundamental freedoms of British workers to seek better pay and conditions.

It also makes no sense – the NHS is already unable to find the nurses it needs to work on the wards, while commuters in the North West are more than aware that trains do not run even on non-strike days due to the shortage of staff.

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Sacking thousands of key workers will simply plunge our public services further into crisis.

Workers already take steps to protect the public during strikes and there are serious questions about how these measures will work in practice, who will be impacted and how, and what the implications could be for trade unions and individual workers.

Labour is strongly opposed to this Bill.

We voted against it earlier this week and would repeal it in power.

We all want minimum standards of safety, service and staffing in our essential services – not least the nurses who have been working round the clock to deal with the crisis in the NHS.

It is Ministers who are failing to provide them, not the workers who are set to have their rights torn up by this unworkable legislation.