House of Lords amends anti-strike bill – but no room for complacency!

The House of Lords has approved amendments to the Tories’ Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill which would blunt some if its worst effects.

The Lords voted for an amendment that extends protection from dismissal to striking workers who are named in a minimum service complement and refuse to work: “Failure to comply with a work notice shall not be regarded as a breach of the contract of employment of any person identified in the work notice, or constitute grounds for dismissal or any other detriment.”

The Lords also voted to exempt Scotland and Wales from the bill’s measures, meaning employers and government in those countries will not have to set minimum service levels, allowing all-out strikes to take place. It also voted to require a consultation on the bill’s impact on the right to strike.

These are positive developments, but they should not be hailed as decisive “victories”. There is no room for complacency; the bill still has to go back to the Commons, where the amendments will be discussed and voted on. And even if they are incorporated into the final version of the bill, it remains an enormous attack on workers’ ability to strike effectively.

We still need assertive political campaigning against the bill, including a national demonstration, and a serious discussion about defiance of the law if it is passed.

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