Two years ago bakery workers at Hovis in Wigan took strike action and won a landmark victory over zero-hours work in their factory, safeguarding an important source of secure employment for the town.
But new government plans to let employers use agency workers to cover striking workers’ jobs mean that by this time next year, their action and the important concessions they won will be impossible for other workers.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid is seeking to overturn a long-running ban on employers using agency workers to break strikes, alongside other restrictive measures in the Government’s new Trade Union Bill. The new measures will make the fundamental right to strike almost meaningless.
Employers will get 14 days’ notice of a strike (rather than 7 currently), and will be able to recruit agency temps – potentially younger workers on zero-hours and minimum wage contracts – to take over the jobs of striking workers.
The agency workers themselves would face a stressful situation, being brought in to undermine existing workers. Limited training in operating difficult machinery or vehicles could lead to real safety risks for people covering strikers’ shifts, and even the wider public. Service quality could suffer too.
But ultimately, if the employer is able to silence a dispute by just replacing workers, future strikes could have little or no effect against even the worst injustices at work.
We’re campaigning against this damaging change and other equally harmful measures in the Trade Union Bill. We’re starting with a petition to show Sajid Javid that people can see the dangers in his plans. Please join us and help make this as big as we can, to protect the fundamental right to strike for all UK workers.