Calls to protect workers and their right to strike

WORKERS and their right to strike must be protected in the face of new legislation being proposed by the UK Government, according to councillors in Inverclyde.

The calls were made in a motion put forward by Councillor Colin Jackson that went before a full meeting of Inverclyde Council on Thursday 16 February 2023 and was seconded by Councillor Jim Clocherty.

It comes on the back of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill being proposed by the UK Government that is currently going through the legislative process.

The motion says the law, if passed, would weaken workers’ rights to take strike and hand power to employers and the government to prevent and undermine such action.

Following a vote, councillors agreed that the council leader should write directly to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy calling on them to withdraw the bill.

The motion also asked that Inverclyde Council, as an employer, respects the human rights of all workers to take strike action and support their right to do so.

Cllr Jackson, who is convener of the social work and social care scrutiny panel, said: “There has been widespread criticism of this proposed legislation and rightly so because it is a clear attempt to weaken workers and trade unions when it comes to exercising their legal right to take industrial action and specifically to go on strike.

“Going on strike is always the last resort and something no employee or trade union wants to pursue but is a vital tool in a democratic society to help protect workers’ rights, terms and conditions, and ensure a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

“Sadly, it is sometimes the only way to get through to employers and stand up to them in times of dispute with normal, hard-working members of staff and this legislation puts the very existence of industrial action under threat.”

Seconder Cllr Clocherty, the council’s education and communities convener, said: “We have a proud track record of trade unionism in Inverclyde and how that can be a force for good in times of industrial discord. Just think of the Lee Jeans factory sit-in – the 40th anniversary of which we celebrated just last year – that is famous around the world as just one example.

“Indeed, Greenock is regarded as the birthplace of trade unionism in Scotland and we have a memorial on Bank Street to commemorate that so we have a duty to our forebears and to the current and future generations of working class people to stand up for our rights and speak out against this flagrant attempt to undermine the rights of workers and their right to strike.”

The motion that was approved at the meeting is as follows:

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, should it become law in its current form, will give employers in vital sectors the power to sack frontline staff, giving the UK government legislative authority to deny workers what is universally regarded as a fundamental human right, the right to withdraw their labour. Employers will have the unilateral right to issue a “work notice” identifying individual workers required to work to maintain minimum service. The Bill provides statutory provision enabling certain employers with the authority of the State to requisition workers. A worker who refuses to comply will lose automatic unfair dismissal protection if they are dismissed. The UK government is therefore seeking to change the law to authorise certain employers to do what no court in this country can do. Under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, section 236, no court can “compel an employee to do any work or attend at any place for the doing of any work”. Having notified the union of the identity of the workers to be compelled to work, the Bill would then deny workers their automatic protection from unfair dismissal if the union fails to take reasonable steps to ensure all members identified in the work notice “comply”. The purpose of this new legislation is to weaken the power of workers and increase the power of employers. In the absence of an effective right to strike, pay and terms and conditions are set by employers without the input of workers. The UK government are trying to justify the Bill by claiming that minimum service levels are authorised by the International Labour Organisation. The UK’s international legal obligations include Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights; Article 3 of Convention 87 of the International Labour Organisation: Article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and Article 6(4) of the European Social Charter 1961. The UK government reaffirmed its commitment to several such treaties in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement 2021.


1. That Inverclyde Council as an employer will, in accordance with the law, continue to respect the human rights of all workers to take strike action and support their right to do so.

2. That Inverclyde Council strongly objects to the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which seeks to undermine the rights of workers and trade unions, and agrees that the Chief Executive write to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy calling on them to withdraw the Bill.

Proposed: Councillor Jackson

Seconded: Councillor Clocherty