The UK government is preparing “emergency powers” to quell strikes
The Conservative government is preparing to deploy the armed forces to quell strikes planned for this month by hundreds of thousands of workers, including a 48-hour strike by nurses. Plans are also being introduced to introduce new anti-strike legislation aimed at making any strike largely ineffective.
Up to 100,000 Royal College of Nursing (RCN) nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to go on strike on December 15 and 20. Nurses are fighting a longstanding wage freeze to secure a 5 percent – about 20 percent – above-inflation raise.
Postal workers of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) are continuing a series of nationwide strikes, following last week’s sacking of 115,000 workers, with strikes on December 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24.
The 40,000 rail workers of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will continue their 48-hour strike against Network Rail and 14 rail operating companies on December 13, 14, 16 and 17 and January 3, 4 and 6. 7, 2023.
Once again, the government has treated workers struggling with low wages to justify repression, the destruction of their conditions and the threat of thousands of job cuts. Henchmen of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Chairman of the Conservative Party, Nadhim Zahavi, said on Sky News Sunday Sophy Ridge: “Now is the time to come together and send a very clear message to Mr Putin that we will not be divided in this way. […] Our message to the trade unions is that “it’s not time to strike, it’s time to negotiate”.
Zahawi warned that “having emergency plans is the right and responsible thing to do.” […] We look at the military, we look at the specialized response forces […] peak capacity. Troops could “drive ambulances” and work on UK borders during strikes.
At the end of November, 80,000 emergency technicians, paramedics and emergency call center workers in England voted to strike in January over pay and staff shortages. It would be the first strike by emergency workers in 30 years. During the National Ambulance Strike of 1989-90, Thatcher’s Conservative government mobilized the army to break it up.
sky news reported: “The Prime Minister’s Office said around 2,000 military and senior civil servants were being trained to provide a range of services during the strike, including border checks at airports and ports.
“These include up to 600 members of the armed forces and 700 employees of the government’s emergency and operational response team, as well as other sectors of the civil service.
“Decisions still need to be made regarding the deployment of troops for these positions, but if strikes in these sectors go ahead as planned, they are one of the options available to us.”
the Sunday Telegraph reported: “Ministers from the departments most affected by the strike threats, including the Home Office, Transport, Health and Education, have come together this week for a series of crisis meetings (Cobras) to coordinate their response.
Other plans for use against nurses’ strikes are related to the government’s program to privatize the National Health Service. the Sunday Telegraph informed: “Pharmacists could be allowed to diagnose patients with minor illnesses and prescribe antibiotics for the first time in a bid to reduce demand for GP appointments and reduce record delays in appointment requests. He added: “However, the plan is unlikely to be introduced before Christmas because for private pharmacies it takes time to train staff and develop National Health Service contracts…”
Angry Right-Wing Media Demands Government Acts to Legislate Minimum Level of Service [MSL] during holidays. the Sun and TimesBoth in Rupert Murdoch’s hands have urged the government to do so without further delay. on Friday, Sun Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is “considering new emergency powers to break holiday winter”. The government was planning “early passage of an anti-strike bill that would open a new front in the government’s war with the health, rail and postal unions.” “Measures may include the use of agency workers to fulfill the essential roles of strikers and to facilitate the permanent replacement of strikers by strikers.” The legislation “will complement legislation currently in Parliament to ensure minimum service levels on public holidays in key industries such as rail”.
the Time, in his op-ed, said Sunak “must find ways to prevent the wave of planned departures from paralyzing the country if his party is to have any chance of reversing its declining fortunes.” He said: “Sunak’s decision to push legislation requiring unions to guarantee a minimum level of service during strikes is encouraging.” It would “require unions and train operators to run at least 20 per cent of trains during strikes, thereby ensuring sufficient services for people to get to work and school”. Passing the MSL legislation was “a test that Sunak and the Tories couldn’t pass up”.
the Time said: “Also, the public’s open sympathy for some strikers should not scare the government. That will change as the effects of the holidays begin to disrupt people’s lives.”
In a major editorial on Sunday, he opposed the idea Telegram warned: “The right strategy is for ministers to wait and hope that public anger will turn against the strikers, especially since many of the workers who intend to strike have relatively generous salaries and pension plans.
“But this is very risky. Polls show that voters now support the strikers. Nurses are very popular. Inflation lowers the real value of wages throughout the economy. There is every chance that people’s anger will fall on the Rishi Sunak administration.”
In hopes of preventing strikes, the government relies politically on the union bureaucracy. in an interview with TelegramDave Ward, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, said of the many groups of workers taking part in strike action or organized balloting: “It’s almost like a de facto general strike given the number of conflicts.”
But Ward spoke as one who would move heaven and earth to prevent such a development. This week he has a union betrayedMonth-long nationwide strike by 40,000 IT workers An outburst of anger from CWU members (Article in English).
Ward said Telegram Not only could Royal Mail stop the strikes, but it could work with the CWU to create a competitive advantage over its rivals. the Telegram reported, “Ward rejected claims of flexibility: “We have committed to 24/7 rounds. We agreed to that.”
He added: “I am telling you that we have agreed to look further at how we can improve Royal Mail’s infrastructure and develop new products and services.”
Ward noted: “If Amazon controlled Royal Mail’s infrastructure, I can guarantee you now that they would use it as a competitive advantage.”
Public sector union bureaucrats have no different intentions. Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said strike threats could be stopped on a pay deal well below inflation, citing the deal with the Scottish National Party government in Scotland as an example. “Avoiding the strike and putting the pay proposals to members for a vote should be a lesson to ministers elsewhere.”
L’Observer reported: “RCN and UnisonObserver If a deal similar to the one in Scotland is offered – from 5% to 11% depending on the pay scale – it could be the basis for progress.
Christina McAnea, general secretary of the biggest public sector union, told the newspaper: “The Government has the power to end strikes in the National Health Service this winter. The health minister should “learn from Scottish ministers who avoided strikes with negotiations and more pay”.
(Article published in English on 5 December 2022)