‘Taking uncivil liberties!’ Trade unions rally against Tory anti-strike laws

Hundreds of campaigners have gathered outside the Houses of Parliament to rally against the Trade Union Bill, which they argue will clamp down on British workers’ democratic right to take strike action.

The bill, which critics have dubbed the biggest attack on trade unions in a generation, will allow employers to undermine strikes by hiring agency workers during industrial action.

It also proposes new restrictions on protests and would require unions to give a fortnight’s notice ahead of strike action.

Under the bill, strikes would be made unlawful unless 50 percent of those eligible to vote on industrial action take part in the ballot.

The bill is scheduled for its third reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has encouraged its reps to lobby their local MPs in the Commons on Monday to explain why they should oppose the bill.

TUC members, along with campaigners and activists, will then hold a rally at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster.

Unison, Unite and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are taking part alongside activists from Occupy London and other groups.

Comedian Andy Parsons and civil liberties campaigner Shami Chakarbarti are also attending.

‘Threat to public safety’

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the bill is “both undemocratic and a threat to public safety.”

Today working people from across the UK — midwives, steelworkers, dinner ladies — are traveling to London to show their opposition to the Trade Union Bill.

In a year when we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the government is looking to take uncivil liberties with our basic freedoms.

It speaks volumes for this government’s priorities that it is putting more energy into steamrollering this bill through Parliament than helping our vital steel industry.

The Trade Union Bill has no place in a modern democracy. It must be voted down.

The rally comes as the TUC launches a new advertising campaign about protecting the right to strike.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says it will campaign against the “disgusting bill.”

“We will campaign vigorously until this disgusting bill is seen for what it is – the attempted removal of the rights of hard working people,” said FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack.

‘Is it really too much to ask?’

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Prime Minister David Cameron asked: “Is it really too much to ask someone who is going to go on strike, who is going to disrupt people’s children’s school, to fill in a ballot paper to do that?

All these measures in the legislation can be discussed as they go through Parliament,” he said.

The heart of the legislation is thresholds so you can't have strikes based on a ballot sometimes years before the actual strike takes place, based on very low turnouts.

That’s the heart of the bill, that’s what’s being proposed.