Liz Truss tonight vowed to stop militant trade unions from trying to ‘paralyze’ the economy.
Ahead of another walkout by rail workers on Wednesday, she said she would introduce legislation to ensure minimum service for roads, railways and gas supplies.
His pledge comes after the Tory leadership front-runner faced a series of aggressive and hectoring attacks from rival Rishi Shankar in a debate broadcast on BBC One tonight. The former chancellor interrupted and spoke to her as she tried to answer questions from host Sophie Raworth.
Ms Truss wants to raise the minimum threshold of support for strike action from 40 per cent of eligible workers to 50 per cent.
And he pledged to double the notice period for industrial action as well as stop members receiving tax-free payments from their unions on strike days. “We need tough and decisive action to limit the ability of trade unions to cripple our economy,” the foreign secretary said.
‘I will do everything in my power to ensure that militant action by trade unions no longer affects the vital services that working people rely on.’
Mr Sink indicated that if he became prime minister, he would also take a hard line on unions.
Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss said she would stop trade unions trying to ‘paralyze’ the economy by striking.
Fellow candidate Rishi Shank said that if elected, he would ‘stop unions that hold working people to ransom’.
Britain’s travel chaos will continue on July 27 and another rail strike is planned this week, causing widespread delays and cancellations.
Commuters will be forced to board trains as more than 40,000 rail workers strike next week after talks failed.
“We urgently need to fulfill our 2019 manifesto commitment of minimum service levels during transport strikes,” he insisted.
Here’s what Liz Truss would do.
- Introduce minimum service levels during strikes affecting critical national infrastructure such as railways and hospitals.
- Raise the minimum proportion of workers required to support a strike ballot for industrial action to be legal from 40% to 50% of those eligible to vote.
- Increase the minimum notice period for strikes to four weeks, from the current two weeks.
- Closing unions can strike as many times as they want in the six months after the ballot.
- Prevent members from receiving tax-free payments from trade unions on strike days.
‘As Prime Minister, I will stop unions holding working people to ransom. I will do whatever it takes to ensure that unions cannot dictate how the British people go about their daily lives.’
As Cabinet Minister Johnny Mercer put it, the leadership contest is becoming ‘fearless and embarrassing’:
- Mr Sink has agreed to be interviewed by veteran journalist Andrew Neil, while Ms Truss has so far refused.
- Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries mocked Mr Sink for his expensive taste in clothing and said Miss Truss would travel the country wearing £4.50 earrings from Claire’s accessories.
- Police are investigating a letter sent to knockout candidate Penny Mordant threatening to ‘shoot her in the head’.
- Labour’s policy on re-nationalising the railways was thrown into disarray after Sir Keir Starmer dropped his support for the move – before a quick U-turn.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union will walk out tomorrow from Network Rail and 14 train operators.
Only a fifth of services will run on around half the network, and passengers are being urged to avoid trains.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said members were more determined than ever to achieve decent pay rises, job security and good working conditions.
‘Network Rail has not made any improvements to its previous pay offer and the train companies have not made us any new offers,’ he said. ‘Indeed Network Rail has already threatened to impose unsafe 50 per cent cuts in maintenance work if we do not withdraw our planned strike action.’
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch (pictured) said Network Rail had not improved on their offer.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Asliffe, said ‘no one in the rail industry has had a pay rise for three years… and the cost of living crisis is affecting all workers’.
The RMT caused widespread travel disruption when 40,000 workers walked out for three days last month in the biggest rail strike in a generation.
Network Rail fears the strikes could last for months – and could be longer because of the Tory leadership race.
One source compared it to the signallers’ strikes of 1994, which ended only when workers could not afford to continue their action.
Another insider said: ‘I can’t see how Liz or Rishi are going to win votes by being soft on trade unions.’
Britain is bracing for a wave of industrial action in the coming months in response to below-inflation pay rises for public sector workers. Trade union chiefs said the announced awards – which rose to around 10 per cent on the lowest paid – amounted to pay cuts given the rising cost of living.
Yesterday the TSSA union announced that workers from seven train companies would walk out on August 18 and 20.
A law change this week means businesses can now use agency workers to fill critical staff gaps caused by industrial action. The move was announced by Boris Johnson to ease disruption caused by walkouts following last month’s rail strikes. Ms Truss’ proposals go further, but her measures are sure to provoke a backlash from unions and may struggle to get through parliament.
The TSSA strike action will come on August 18 and 20, the same days the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union is striking against Network Rail and 14 train operators, throwing Britain’s public transport network into chaos. (Image: Passengers wait at London’s Paddington station amid train service disruption)
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has described the government’s plan to deal with strikes as ‘unworkable’.
TUC general secretary Francis O’Grady said yesterday: ‘The right to strike is an important British freedom.
‘Threatening the right to strike means that working people lose the power to bargain for better pay and conditions.
“Instead of mocking working people and their unions, the candidates should be planning to raise wages again.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: ‘Liz Truss wants to blame anyone but herself and the Conservatives for the mess they have made over the last 12 years.
‘As we have seen with government plans to break strikes with agency workers, these plans are unworkable, will only further undermine working people’s rights and inflame industrial relations.’
But a spokesman for Miss Truss’s campaign said: ‘Liz is determined to stand up for people who work hard and do the right thing.
‘For too long, trade unionists have been able to hold the country to ransom with the threat of industrial action.
‘The measures he has announced today will finally give the government the opportunity to wrest control from the trade union barons and deliver the economic growth we need.’