AN ATTEMPT yesterday by the Tories to introduce a bill which would ban the right to strike in critical services, was overwhelmingly defeated in parliament.
Yesterday afternoon Tory MP for South Croydon, Chris Philp, introduced his proposed Industrial Action (Protection of Critical National Services) Bill. The proposed bill was resoundingly defeated with 206 MPs voting against and 127 voting for.
Philp said: ‘I beg to move, to bring in a bill to regulate industrial action by those providing critical, national services. To define critical national services to include railways, buses, trams, the Underground, the NHS, fire and ambulance services.
‘To require those taking industrial action on such services to demonstrate the matter in dispute is such that the adverse effect on the public is proportionate and reasonable and to provide for the High Court to adjudicate on this and determine a minimum required level of service to the public and for elected purposes.’
He then went on: ‘There are signs that this kind of industrial action, hugely disruptive to the public, but based on a flimsy pretext is spreading. Mersey Rail and Great Northern are next in the union’s sights, and two weeks ago London ground to a halt on the Underground. …We now need further legislation to recognise the public’s right to get to work.’
He added: ‘This bill goes further than previous legislation and proposes that strikes on critical national services such as the railways, the tubes, buses and NHS should be proportionate and reasonable in the view of a high court judge in order to be lawful. Where strikes were allowed, the judge would specify a level of basic service that would be available during any strike.’
Kevin Brennan, Labour MP for Cardiff West, spoke up passionately to oppose the motion. He said: ‘This bill is disproportionate, unnecessary and it is an attack on a fundamental British liberty: the right to withdraw labour in a legal trade dispute with an employer.
‘And it is not as if we have not already experienced a full frontal attack on the rights of workers who are in dispute with their employer under this government. The honourable gentleman, in his bill this afternoon, is seeking to restrict the rights of people in the workplace.
‘Even further, before the government has enforced its last full frontal attack on workers, and to be perfectly honest if this bill were allowed to proceed, it would simply be the thin end of the wedge of even more anti-union legislation from the Conservatives.
‘Because this is what they do, dogs bark, birds fly and Tories attack workers’ rights. In the press, the honourable member for Croydon South has framed his bill specifically as a response to the dispute, as he did today with Southern Rail.
‘But of course, it goes much further than that to include transport in general, to include the National Health Service, to include fire, to include ambulance services. This is not about one industrial dispute, whatever the rights and wrongs of that particular dispute, it is about further restricting the long fought for right of workers in a free society to withhold their labour.’