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Defending the right to strike

Yesterday in a dusty Committee Room in Westminster, I confronted a piece of legislation that I believe fundamentally undermines the rights of workers in Scotland and beyond.

As a Member of Parliament and a proud member of Unite, I am appalled by the Tory government's attacks on workers - the latest of which being the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023. Despite this being made law, we had gathered yesterday to debate the secondary legislation needed to implement it - the Code of Practice on Reasonable Steps to be taken by a Trade Union (Minimum Service Levels).

Originally brought forward as a reactionary measure against public figures like Mick Lynch, the anti-strike legislation was a knee-jerk reaction to media coverage rather than a thoughtfully crafted policy. This rushed process has led to a complete dog's dinner, filled with loopholes and uncertainties.

One of my primary concerns is the imminent implementation of this code of practice. The regulations, in their current form, amount to an effective strike ban. This not only challenges the fundamental rights of workers but also undermines our democratic processes.

The draft code of practice is particularly alarming as it requires trade union officials to advise their members against striking - an instruction that goes against the very principles of trade unionism.

This legislation, along with other UK Government initiatives like the Public Order Act 2023, represents a worrying trend in the erosion of our most basic and cherished liberties. The ability of an employee to withdraw their labour is a fundamental right. Not only are the Tories curtailing this right, they are dodging scrutiny by having the details discussed in a small committee room rather than the main Chamber of the House of Commons.

This represents a complete departure from the promises made by those campaigning for Leave during the Brexit referendum. We were assured that workers' rights would not be compromised, yet that is exactly what has happened.

The passage of this code of practice, despite fierce opposition voiced across civic Scotland, underscores the need for Scottish independence. The rights of workers will not be safe for so long as we remain governed by Westminster.

Watch my full speech at Committee below.

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