The Coalition should rush emergency union legislation through Parliament
By Tim Montgomerie
I've been hesitant about Boris Johnson's call for new strike legislation, fearing it might only provoke unions into a furious reaction but I'm increasingly of the view that unless new powers are introduced the public will be dangerously unprotected in the months ahead.
The trigger for my change of view is the decision of the Fire Brigades Union to abandon their responsibilities to the public on bonfire night. Can you imagine a more striking example of contempt for the public and public safety?
Two areas of urgent law reform are necessary.
- First is the issue Boris identified. The fact that small minorities of workforces can legitimately initiate strike action. The CBI has identified exactly the same concern.
- Second - and more relevant to the FBU action - is the introduction of compulsory arbitration in essential public services. Certain key public sector workers should give up their right to strike and in return the government would accept the arbitration of an independent body - something like ACAS - on issues of pay and conditions.
If the government does not act now the FBU action will only be the beginning. We learnt this morning that a former supporter of the "ultra-left Militant" is likely to win the leadership of Unite. Powerful unions - with links to the Labour Party and wider Left - representing teachers, healthcare workers and other public sector interests could cause chaos in the months ahead. During the Labour years the public sector unions became as muscular as the private sector unions of the 1970s. The Coalition must act to give the public the protections it deserves and it should act quickly.
Policy Exchange has already provided a list of necessary reforms.