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Unions to fight for your right to strike

14 December 2023

At the first special congress held by the TUC in forty years, the British trade union movement threw down the gauntlet against a government that is seeking to curtail your internationally recognised right to withdraw your labour

Nautilus joined in solidarity with hundreds of union representatives at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) as it vowed to campaign against the UK government’s new anti-strike law at a special congress held in London on Saturday 9 December 2023.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Level) Act 2023 is the latest government move aimed at weakening trade unions' freedom to organise strike action. It affects:

• transport
• border security
• health
• education
• fire and rescue services
• decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel.

The law will oblige unions to work with employers during strike periods to ensure a minimum level of service is guaranteed, undermining the impact of effective industrial action.
The law also means workers could be forced to attend work during strike periods and face the sack if they do not comply.

The anti-strike law is the latest in a series of legislative attacks on trade unions, including minimum ballot turnout thresholds, minimum notice periods to employers ahead of action, and launching a consultation on ending the prohibition on the use of agency workers during strikes.

The UK government was recently rebuked by the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) for weak labour laws and employment standards, which the ILO said had facilitated P&O Ferries' mass-sacking of 786 maritime professionals in March 2022.

Members affected

As things stand, the only Nautilus International members who will be affected by the Strikes (Minimum Service Level) Act 2023 are those working for Border Force, as it comes under border security. Otherwise the legislative power for it to be extended to transport, does not yet include maritime transport.

Minimum service legislation may well be used by government to undermine any action. They will seek to silence us. We're here to say: we won't be silenced.

However, the Union is concerned that members, particularly at the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) where the Union is currently balloting for industrial action after a derisory 4.5% pay offer, could eventually be targeted under the legislation. Nautilus members at the RFA are currently being balloted on industrial action – something that could be affected in future.

Nautilus speaks

Addressing the special congress, Nautilus communications and campaigns organiser Robert Murtagh said: 'Minimum service legislation may well be used by government to undermine any action. Rather than deal with the root of the problem – over a decade of cuts and pay restraint – they will seek to silence us. We’re here to say: we won't be silenced.'

The special congress unanimously supported the TUC General Council statement which set out the key steps to oppose the law: support unions and workers affected, resist the laws through legal challenges, mobilise opposition (including via a national demonstration in January), and hold the Labour Party to its commitment to repeal the legislation.

In his remarks to close the congress, TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: 'The right to strike, to withdraw your labour, is a cornerstone of our democracy – of any democracy. No one wants to go on strike, it's something you're forced to do when your boss threatens your job or your safety at work or won't give you a decent pay rise.

'Going on strike is a protection working people have relied on for generations. So, Congress, here today, we resolve that we will defy their ban on strikes, we will overturn this unjust law and we will win for workers!'

Nautilus International will continue to work with the TUC and other trade unions in opposition to the legislation and will explore measures to oppose the law if it is used to target Nautilus members.


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