These Acts make a bonfire of our rights


Labour Pat Osborne
Labour Pat Osborne

Train drivers are being forced to strike again this month as part of a long-running dispute over pay and conditions. Regrettably, many people’s travel plans will be disrupted as a result.
Under the recent Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023, train operators are legally allowed to force striking workers back to work to provide a minimum service level (MSL) that the industry has set at 40 per cent of the normal timetable. However, none of the rail companies are exercising these powers, despite ministers making it clear that they were expected to do so.
The reason for this is an understanding that to do so would lead to worse industrial relations with their employees, protracting the dispute and increasing the chance of further disruption. Indeed, an attempt by one train company, LNER, to enforce MSLs was met by ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, calling five additional strikes. Needless to say, LNER withdrew its plans.
It is clear that MSLs (which are applicable to health, fire and rescue, education, nuclear energy and border security, as well as transport services) were intended to fan the flames of chaos rather than dampen disputes, so that industrial relations might be weaponised for political gain.
The trade union movement has slammed the legislation as a threat to both industrial relations and the right to strike. The Labour Party has committed to repealing the Act immediately on forming a new government.
While it seems that the plan has backfired for now, we can be assured that the Tories will not stop there.
Indeed, the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, and the Public Order Act 2022, when taken together, represent a veritable bonfire of many of our rights to peaceful protest – fundamental pillars of a functioning and stable liberal democracy.
Pat Osborne
North Dorset Labour Party


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