Labour is urged to stop risking lives by trying to cripple legislation aimed at minimising damage from wave of strikes
- Labour was accused of ‘playing politics’ with people’s lives
- Accusation came after they tried to cripple moves to minimise strike disruption
- The Tories warned that this could stop Britons from going to hospital
Labour was accused of ‘playing politics’ with people’s lives after it tried to cripple moves to minimise strike disruption.
The Opposition has tabled amendments to legislation which would guarantee minimum service levels during walkouts – in a bid to stop the proposals becoming law.
But the Tories warned that blocking the legislation could stop Britons going to hospital or children going to school.
Business minister Kevin Hollinrake told the Commons that the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is not ‘radical’ but ‘reasonable’ and ‘proportionate’.
Labour was accused of ‘playing politics’ with people’s lives after it tried to cripple moves to minimise strike disruption
The unions and barons are undergoing strikes in want of change
On Wednesday hundreds of thousands of teachers, train drivers and civil servants will stage coordinated strikes in Britain’s biggest day of industrial action for more than a decade. Fresh strike action was also announced last night after firefighters voted to walk out, with the head of the union warning that he could not rule out people dying.
Mr Hollinrake told MPs that while the Government wants to resolve the disputes, it must be done in an ‘affordable way’. He added: ‘An inflation-matching pay increase of 11 per cent for all public sector workers would cost £28billion – that’s just under £1,000 on to the bills of each [household.
‘I say, that’s on top of the Opposition’s spending plans, which have already added £50billion annually of recurrent costs on to our economy and that’s on top of a situation [where] we are already running a £175billion deficit.
The Tories warned that blocking the legislation could stop Britons going to hospital or children going to school
On Wednesday hundreds of thousands of teachers, train drivers and civil servants will stage coordinated strikes in Britain’s biggest day of industrial action for more than a decade
‘What we have seen over recent months is you cannot take the markets for granted. That level of borrowing is absolutely unsustainable.’
But Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said that the Bill – which she has dubbed the ‘sacking nurses bill’ – was ‘irrational’ and ‘impractical’.
She told the Commons that the legislation would not stand up to scrutiny, and would hand ‘sweeping powers to a power-hungry Secretary of State’.
Ms Rayner added: ‘This Bill is an attack on our basic British freedoms. It is from a Prime Minister who is desperately out of his depth, desperately blaming the working people of Britain for his own failures. There has been no opportunity for real scrutiny, no impact assessment and there is absolutely no justification for it.
John Leach, assistant general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) spoke to protestors outside Downing Street against the new law on strikes
‘The Government’s pretence that it is about safety is offensive to every key worker, and for the sake of every nurse, teacher and firefighter across the UK, I urge every member of this House to vote with us on our amendments.’
But Tory MP Luke Hall told the Daily Mail: ‘The country is fed up with the Labour Party playing politics with their daily lives. Labour’s vote shows where their allegiances truly lie – with their paymaster union barons, not the British people who they are stopping from going to hospital, sending their kids to school and going to work. The Labour Party is without question a party of protest. Keir Starmer needs to grow a backbone and stand up to the unions.’
It came as the head of the firefighters’ union warned that he cannot rule out people dying during planned strikes next month. Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said the Government and employers were ‘compromising public safety’ by not offering a pay rise.
He added: ‘We hope that it doesn’t come to that.’
Seven trade unions, also representing university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards, will walk out tomorrow. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned this could see up to 500,000 workers on strike as protests are also held across the country against the Bill. This included thousands of people who marched outside Downing Street last night.
No10 warned yesterday that the wave of strikes was having a damaging impact on the economy and would hit businesses which have ‘already suffered a great deal’ during the pandemic.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman also appealed to unions to call off the planned strikes and said a planned walkout by teachers was ‘deeply disappointing’. He added: ‘Children were some of the hardest hit during the pandemic when schools needed to be closed. To have the ability to get into classrooms taken away from them again is particularly difficult.’
n The BBC is facing strike action over changes to local radio.
Around 1,000 journalists could walk out over the reforms which would see local stations sharing more output and the loss of more than 40 jobs. Members of the National Union of Journalists who work are moving to a formal ballot with action pencilled in from March 13.
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