TUC appeals to the bosses to avoid issuing ‘Work Notices!’ – will not call general strike

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Fire Brigades Union members at a TUC rally in Parliament Square to defend the right to strike

‘UNIONS are not going to lie down’, assured TUC Assistant General Secretary Kate Bell yesterday.

She was addressing a press conference at Congress House ahead of today’s Special Congress.

In her remarks, she stressed: ‘The right to strike is a vital tool to ensure there is a fair balance of power in the work place.’

She noted: ‘On Wednesday minimum service levels regulations and the code of practice passed through Parliament.’

She said: ‘These laws are unworkable, undemocratic and likely illegal.’

She assured: ‘Unions won’t rest until these laws are repealed. That’s why we are calling this weekend’s once in a generation congress.’

She said that the TUC ‘will be calling on every single employer covered by this legislation to do everything in their power to avoid issuing work notices.’

She added: ‘We will kick-off a nationwide campaign to name and shame all employers and public bodies who deploy work notices’.

She expressed concerns that: ‘If unions or workers put a foot out of place – they will be hit with draconian measures whether it is million pound damages or everyone on strike from losing their protection, or from consequences from their employer, or the potential for workers to be sacked.

‘These are not minor tweaks to industrial relations law – they are an assault on the right to strike and an assault on working people’s living standards.’

She went on to warn: ‘The government is already trying to use the law as a trojan horse for other anti-union measures.

‘This includes an attempted clap down on picketing in the code of practice and they’re trying to bring back their shameful attempt to allow agency workers to strike break – after the trade union movement defeated in the courts.’

She concluded: ‘That’s why it’s important, so important we defeat this pernicious legislation. We will use every lever at our disposal to oppose it.’

In a session on questions, she said that appealing to employers is the first step in our campaign.

She pointed out that NHS providers have already said that this legislation risks prolonging disputes.

With reference to the TUC Council supporting workers in industrial dispute, she was asked: ‘Would that mean the TUC calling strike action?’

Bell replied: ‘We will be discussing any forms of industrial action action at the Special Congress.’

Also asked if there was likely to be an emergency motion on Palestine and if the TUC will be participating of Saturday’s national demonstration, Bell referred to the TUC statement on the Israel-Gaza war.

The TUC statement supports the UN call for a humanitarian ceasefire but ‘condemns the brutal attacks and murder of Israeli civilians by Hamas’.

The press conference was also addressed by paramedic and Unison rep Sam Collins-Berry who said: ‘I took strike action this year, we already held emergency cover during the strike.

‘We went to great lengths to ensure ambulances reached people during strike days.

‘Minimum service levels are totally unnecessary, we want the government to ensure that there is sufficient funding and staffing. Minimum service levels produce more problems than they solve.’

Rights group Liberty officer Charlie Whelton said: ‘Fifty organisations have spoken out against this Bill. It means uncertainty for millions of people. This law is purposefully provocative, practically impossible and unlawful.’