UK government accused of sabotaging strike rights

Britain’s Conservative government was accused on Wednesday of deliberately derailing negotiations with unions to encourage multiple strikes that have paralyzed the country and “sabotage” social rights.

According to union leaders in the railway sector, the executive expected a rejection by public opinion of the disturbances caused by the incessant strike in various sectors to justify a new legislation that would impose minimum services.

From transport to health, through education and the post office, strikes have multiplied for months in the United Kingdom to demand better wages in the face of soaring inflation of almost 11%.

On Wednesday, ambulance personnel, drivers and paramedics carried out a new strike that prompted warnings of the risk for patients.

Rishi Sunak’s government met on Monday with Transport, Health and Education unions to try to find a way out of the protests, but without concrete progress.

And on Tuesday he presented a bill to establish “minimum services” in key sectors.

“If he did it in (Vladimir) Putin’s Russia, in Iran or in China, he would be rightly condemned,” Mick Lynch, head of the powerful RMT railway union, reacted before a parliamentary committee.

“Forcing workers to work against their will is a scandal,” he added, saying the British government is banking on failed negotiations with unions to prolong strikes and impoverish workers.

“For me, it is sabotage. And they wanted these strikes to take place,” denounced this well-known trade unionist. “It is a deliberate policy of the government of this country to lower the wages of workers in all areas (…) and make them poorer than they were,” he added.

RMT has rejected the government-backed proposals and believes the parties remain far apart on wages.

For his part, Mick Whelan, representative of the ASLEF transport union, assured the deputies that his union could afford to continue the strikes “for a long time”.

During his first question session of the year in parliament, Sunak insisted that he wants a “constructive dialogue” with the unions, but said that wage agreements cannot fuel inflation.

“No one denies the freedom of strike unions,” he said of the new legislation, “but it’s also important to balance it with people’s right to have access” to key services.

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