A body of the UN – the International Labour Organisation (ILO) – has warned the Conservative party that their controversial Trade Union Bill may breach international law.
The Tories’ bill would lift the ban on using agency workers to replace strikers during industrial action. The ILO has asked that the Tories only permit replacements for ‘essential public services’. The government previously announced that fire, health, education, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning sectors would be defined as such.
Yet, allowing agency workers to fill in during industrial action deeply undermines the right to strike, no matter the service. If workers can just be replaced, the concrete impact of striking is nullified. It reduces striking to a symbolic action that can readily be ignored by employers.
In turn, this upsets the balance of power between employers and employees. Employers already set working hours, pay and holiday leave. Without at least the option of industrial action, we are left with a race to the bottom of who can endure the worst working conditions. There needs to be a balance; a way in which ordinary people can mediate the power of bosses.
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