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Liz Truss vs. Labor Union: The Next Front in the Culture Wars?

Much has been made about Liz Truss’ attempts to emulate her icon, Margaret Thatcher, to become Tory leader and prime minister.

While she’s tried to keep herself out of comparison, she does have one thing in common with her late predecessor. That is, she took office at a time when Britain’s economy was collapsing and the workforce was more rebellious than ever.

Labor unions, outraged by 10.1% inflation above stagnant wages, are organizing at scale for industrial action that threatens to throw Britain back into the turmoil of the 1970s.

One after another, they’re rejecting the government’s single-digit salary proposals and organizing violent votes.

Their resistance sets the stage for a new front in a divisive culture war that fears the Truss will seek to “crush its enemies within” by bringing a series of measures that impede the union’s ability to take industrial action. To do.

Truss’ new prime minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, confirmed this week that the government would introduce legislation to make strikes more difficult.

“What we have is a government that seems to be struggling to find an answer to the cost of living crisis,” says Tim Sharp. Senior Policy Officer on Employment Rights at the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

“Some of the government seems to want to distract from that with a culture war against the union.

“We held a leadership contest where the candidate had to appeal to some of the more ideological members. That’s why we looked at the pledge in terms of anti-union action.”

Which unions are on strike?

The RMT and Aslef railway unions, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) representing Royal Mail workers, and barristers under the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) have all gone on strike in recent weeks over wages and working conditions.

The Dockhands, represented by Unite, have also gone on strike at the port of Felixstowe and are due to strike again in September in the shadow of a Labor conference in Liverpool.

The National Education Union (NEU), the UK’s largest education union representing teachers, lecturers and support staff, will launch a strike online preliminary vote on 24 September, before a formal vote is held in November. .

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said Britain could be bogged down by a wave of strikes hitting “every sector of the economy”.

Ian Forsythe for Getty Images

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), whose membership includes 500,000 nurses, midwives, nursing support workers and students, launched a mail-in ballot for strike action on 15 September and closed on 13 October. I was.

If enough members vote for industrial action, it will be the first time in the union’s history that members in England and Wales will go on strike.

The British Medical Association (BMA) also said it would vote for its members to take industrial action if the government failed to restore wages to 2008/09 levels by the end of the month.

Citizens should prepare for the havoc such strikes can wreak on their daily lives.

“All schools in the country will be closed, resulting in complete chaos,” said one union source. “Tens of thousands of hospital appointments will be canceled.

“This is the price to pay for a Conservative government that has severely cut public services.”

Truss Arsenal Tools

If the truss is considering how to limit trade union rights, David Cameron’s Trade Union Act of 2016 may give you a hint.

Billed as part of the world’s most “regressive” anti-union bill at the time, the legislation brought measures such as a higher threshold for success in industrial ballots.

It also extended the notice period within which trade unions must notify employers prior to striking from one to two weeks.

In ordinary unions, voter turnout must be 50% for industrial ballot results to be legally valid. For the strike to proceed, a simple majority must vote in favor of the strike.

However, for workers providing “critical” public services, not only must a 50% voter turnout be met for a strike to be legal, it must also have 40% support from all eligible members. must be obtained.

Unions fear the truss could use the new law to introduce thresholds so high as to make strikes nearly impossible.

They also anticipate that she could broaden her definition of what counts as a public service to include bus drivers and subway drivers, for example, applying a 40% threshold.

“If she goes in this direction, there will be new laws, and that is true,” one union source said.

“She’s got a majority in Congress. You’re not going to stop her legislation.

“If the Tories use an act of Congress to redefine public service, they will cover a huge chunk of private industry in one fell swoop.

“It could make it even more difficult for trade unions to overcome the limits. These laws are already the toughest in Europe.”

A new law guaranteeing minimum services in “critical national infrastructure” was a key promise of the leadership campaign, as was a tax on benefits received by strike members when they were not working.

Truss also proposed a six-month cooling-off period after the vote so unions could not strike as often as they liked.

Tim Sharp says the ramifications of Truss’ plans could make it more difficult to resolve union disputes.

“The industrial action we took was grassroots driven,” he told HuffPost UK.

“They run the risk of making labor disputes more difficult to resolve. We often see days of strikes here and there, but when unions are limited in how often they take industrial action. , we may see longer periods of strike action.”

Another union insider agreed.

“She will generate enough outrage to drive turnout in many of the union ballots currently taking place.”

workers of the world unite

Criminal lawyers are on strike over compensation for legal aid services.
Criminal lawyers are on strike over compensation for legal aid services.

Mike Kemp via Getty Images

In the union, Truss has found an opponent he cannot defeat without a fight.

Unite union boss Sharon Graham told The Huffington Post UK that there would be “a long and fierce resistance to the trusses attacking workers’ rights”.

“If Liz Truss thinks we’re just waiting for her anti-union law, she’s wrong,” she says.

“We are ready. If she presents a standard for legal strike behavior, we will hire more organizers to encourage votes. will receive more money from the strike fund in order to maintain the value of

“If she tries to make fun of the unions, we will find more and more ways to speak up.”

Also swiping Truss’ own results in the Tory leadership race, Graham said:

“Liz Truss is upping the numbers with the new legislation is a bit wealthy.

“If the Tories were bound by the same constraints as the trade unions, Truss would not have qualified for leadership. You couldn’t make it up.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said workers could be forced into “illegal industrial action” if the government made it impossible to carry out legal strikes.

He told Sky News: On the repression of the former Soviet bloc and communist regimes. ”

The TUC has already prepared a campaign to appeal to the public when the fighting begins.

The National Assembly is held in Westminster with a tour of City Hall, a day of National Action and the Lobby of Parliament.

The message members are told to stick to is that the truss’ plan “threatens the right to strike” and is an attempt to distract the public from the burgeoning cost of living crisis.

And, crucially, there is the proclamation: “Keep calm. They want to take their anger out on us. Do not satisfy them.”

Failure to do so may result in the government appearing in court.

As a sign of coming resistance, 11 Trade unions filed a lawsuit against the government on Tuesday over its plan to replace striking workers with agency staff.

They claimed the government had violated the Employment Agencies Act of 1973 and had not consulted on changes. It violates the “fundamental rights of trade unions” protected by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

no pain no gain

For Truss, a prolonged battle with the unions could help build her reputation among voters.

According to JL Partners co-founder and pollster James Johnson, Truss can earn public admiration by sticking to what he thinks is right.

“I don’t think this is a politically calculated move. I think it comes from genuine dissatisfaction within the government,” he said.

“I reward Liz Truss by showing that when they pursue what they think is right, even when it doesn’t work out, it’s steely and has an inner sense of conviction. It’s that it can have a long-term impact on popularity — and that’s what the public craves.

By taking such a firm policy, she also sets a contrast in the minds of voters between herself and Labor leader Kiel Sturmer.

“There is a negative view of Sturmer because of his position during the strike. At first it seemed to be in favor of going out, but it wasn’t,” explains Johnson.

“It reinforces the view that he has no endorsement, which is fine if other major parties are viewed that way, but if such a contrast arises between Truss and Sturmer. If so, he might be in trouble.”

The jury is out on whether Truss will be able to reclaim the position of convicted politician or whether the ensuing turmoil will be so great that any gains made from taking the position will be nullified. I’m here.