International union leaders have condemned anti-union laws being pushed by the Conservative government in the UK, calling them the worst attack on labour rights since the Thatcher years.
In fact, according to the head of the global union which represents telecoms workers, UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings, the proposed laws are an attack on democracy itself.
Some of the proposed limits on strike action, such as the minimum 50% turnout for any strike ballot, already apply in Australia – a reminder of how far down the anti-union path we have travelled since the introduction of such laws under the Howard Government.
But the UK laws will go further, with public sector strikes needing both a 50% turnout and a YES vote from at least 40% of all eligible (as opposed to participating) voters.
The laws would also force unions to give employers 14 days of notice of impending industrial action. In Australia now the period is 3 days.
According to British unions, the proposals are designed to make getting a much-needed pay rise, stopping job losses or negotiating better conditions at work much more difficult.
Jennings said that the laws were part of a concerted global push by employers and governments to weaken the labour movement – a push that was contributing to rising inequality around the world.
“While the Conservative Party would have you believe that unions hold back economic growth, the reality is precisely the opposite. Working people need money in their pocket to fuel the economy,” he said.
“For the first time in history the majority of people living in poverty in the UK are in work. This is the legacy of the Tories’ previous attacks on trade unions. I hate to think want will happen next.”