New Prime Minister: Liz Truss trade union reforms could turn UK into a ‘worker’s gulag’, UVW leader warns

Liz Truss has promised a crackdown on trade union rights in response to rising levels of industrial action

Liz Truss’ plans to further restrict trade unions and review key legislation around worker’s rights could turn the UK into a “worker’s gulag,” a union leader has warned.

Petros Elia, general secretary of the United Voices of the World trade union, has described the new Prime Minister’s proposals to increase ballot thresholds, double strike notice periods and tax strike pay as a “vicious attack” on worker’s rights.

Elia has called on workers across the country to resist the proposals with “more coordinated action, more strikes, more pickets and more protests”.

Proposals intended to ‘shackle’ trade union movement

Newly appointed Prime Minister Liz Truss has described a number of changes she would like to implement to rules governing industrial action and trade union activity in the UK.

Speaking exclusively to NationalWorld, a grassroots trade union leader has savaged the proposals as a “vicious attack on the freedoms and rights of working people in this country like we haven’t seen in a generation”.

“If we allow Liz Truss to shackle us as she plans to, the right of workers to strike and the effectiveness of those strikes will be hugely and unjustifiably diminished,” Elia warned, “fighting for rights like a decent pay rise at a time when inflation is rampant and people are struggling to pay for gas, electricity and food for their families will be severely undermined and the only beneficiaries of that will be fat cat bosses.

“All these measures are designed to make it as hard as possible for workers to strike or to do so shackled, with minimal impact.

“The Tories have always sought to take away our democratic and human rights to strike, to picket and to protest and unless we resist this with more coordinated action, more strikes, more pickets and more protests, we risk going to back to the time when bosses were called masters and workers were called servants - that was the case until the 1970s .

UVW organises workers in underserved parts of the economy, often BAME people working within public sector workplaces such as NHS hospitals but employed through third-party firms on lower wages and with less rights at work than their in-house colleagues.

The union has helped many workers achieve equal rights and pay at work, including sick pay and maternity pay, through industrial and legal action.

“Workers like the majority of our members, who are cleaners or security guards in small offices dotted around the country, working alone or with five or six colleagues; those on minimum pay, on zero-hours contracts, who most need to be seen and heard, the ones fighting all alone or with little support against their powerful bosses; those will be the workers most affected by these despicable measures.”

“These measures are designed to try to shut us up and shut us down. But we won’t be intimidated. Britain already has the most stringent anti-union laws in Europe and here workers’ rights are regularly violated according to The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global ranking.”

Raising strike ballot support threshold is ‘undemocratic’

Currently, in order to take industrial action, trade unions must ballot their members to acquire a support mandate of at least 40% of those eligible, with a minimum turnout of 50%.

Under Truss’ proposals, the support mandate would increase to 50%, meaning even if turnout was above 50% and a majority of those who voted were in favour of industrial action, it would not be able to go ahead unless at least 50% of all eligible workers voted in favour.

Elia points out that no such rule applies to politicians.

“Raising the strike ballot support threshold to 50% of all eligible voters is completely undemocratic,” he said.

“If national elections were run this way, Liz Truss would not be an MP and Prime Minister today, as she didn’t get 50% percent of all eligible voters in her constituency!

“Why should striking workers have to do what politicians won’t? It’s a double standard of the worst kind, which is entirely typical of the Tories.”

Truss has also proposed increasing the mandatory notice period for industrial action from two to four weeks, in a move thought to be intended to make it easier for bosses to make use of a recent change in the law to allow agency workers to be brought in to replace striking staff.

There have also been reports that Truss will look to tax workers who receive strike pay from union coffers, despite this money being given to unions from workers’ wages, having already been subject to taxation.

“Increasing the strike notice from two to four weeks will make it even easier than it is now for employers to replace striking workers with agency workers and as for planning to make union members pay tax on strike pay, this is unfair even by conservative fiscal-hawk standards and is not applied to charitable donations.

“Tories advocate less corporate tax for multi-billion companies while planning to make strikers on poverty wages pay tax through their nose! And they are not doing it to collect more taxes, they’re doing it to break more strikes.”

“We will resist and defeat these attempts to shackle us and turn this country into a worker’s gulag. We urge every single worker out there who is not yet unionised to join us so we can fight as one and win.”