Speaking ahead of today’s (Monday) 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“On the day when we rightly celebrate human rights and access to justice, our government is busy working on reforms aimed at shutting down dissent and weakening people’s rights at work.
“The Conservative Trades Union Bill is a cynical attempt to suppress trade unions ahead of massive cuts to the public sector.
“Unions often are the last line of defence. And the government want to make it more difficult for workers across the economy, be they midwives or steelworkers, to express their democratic wishes and take industrial action in defence of jobs and services.
“The right to strike is a fundamental human right recognised across the democratic world. It has played a crucial role in helping workers – whether they are a member of a union or not – to secure better conditions and lives for them and their families.
“The Trades Union Bill is an opportunistic and ideological attack on unions at a time when the government should be focused on securing the UK’s fragile economic recovery and creating better jobs to boost productivity.
“As well as introducing punitive new ballot thresholds – that virtually no politician would meet – ministers want to criminalise strike protests if there are more than seven people on a picket line. And they plan on using the forthcoming Snoopers’ Charter to increase surveillance of trade unions.
“Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes routinely clamp down on freedom of association and spy on dissenters. Everyone who cares about civil liberties should be worried about these plans.
“Treating unions like enemies in a bid to replay the battles of the 1980s is not the way to build a fairer society.
“Union agreements often set the going rate for the job in non-union workplaces too. If you undermine collective bargaining, you undermine everyone’s pay and livings standards.
“There is also a real danger too that these reforms could backfire and lead to destabilising, unofficial action, whether that’s wildcat strikes or mass sickies.
“Magna Carta laid the ground for the fundamental rights and institutions that we have today. The government is betraying that legacy through its attack on people’s right to protest and organise free from state surveillance.
“These plans are a stain on the spirit of Magna Carta and an affront to that solid British notion of fair play. These reforms must be shelved.”