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A  rail revolution

10 February 2014

The right to withdraw your labour under attack

David Cameron has raised the spectre of restricting strike action following the recent London Tube strikes. In his deliberation Mr Cameron is considering placing London Underground in the same class of "essential services" similar to the current rules operated by the fire service and police strikes in order to stop strike action disrupting the tube.

It has further emerged that the Tories were looking very closely at new restrictions on strike action, although it would not be done under the coalition.

In a fluid and somewhat quasi free UK market economy, businesses have the ability to set sanctions, penalties or rewards in order to attain their economic objectives.

But we argue, what does the worker have? It inevitably comes down to his or her own labour, particularly when it comes to withdrawing such labour in the form of strike action. This is not a political right or left argument but a fundamental social workers right.

But to attain that right, consecutive governments have placed or endorsed many statutory hurdles that need to be overcome. These hurdles are not necessarily for the benefit of the worker but arguable they are obstacles that have to be navigated through in order to intact those basic rights. It is a fact that failure to adhere to these stringent rules my result in the strike being classed by the courts as illegal.  So it is not surprising to hear that Britain is among only three other European countries where a strike may constitute a breach of the employment contract which could lead to dismissal.

Taking just the short synopsis above, UK companies would agree that to contemplate imposing greater hurdles is perverse in its content.

We have summarised some of the different rules governing the right to withdraw labour in different European Countries including those of Britain.


Further in-depth reading can be found in an excellent article ‘The Right to Strike: A Comparative Perspective, A study of national law in six EU statesedited by Arabella Stewart & Mark Bell



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