In April the Conservative MP Dominic Raab proposed a change in law. He asked for "a Bill to prohibit strike action in the emergency and transport service sectors unless a majority of employees in the unionised workforce has voted in favour of such action." For Boris Johnson such a change in the law would be a great help.
We have had tube strikes with only a third of RMT members voting for them. Of course Ken Livingstone would oppose preventing such strikes and we had London Labour MPs (including my MP Andrew Slaughter) voting down Raab's bill. But with a clear Party divide on the issue we could get an idea of what Londoners think in the Mayoral and Assembly elections on May 3rd next year.
Having resisted this modest change proposed by Raab there are now indications that the Government may actually go rather further.
What of the Unison strike on November 30h which threatens such disruption to council services?
The Sunday Times reports (£):
Ministers have threatened to introduce anti-strike laws after Unison, the biggest public sector union, persuaded only about a quarter of its members to support a walkout this month.
The government says the case for overhauling strike laws will become “hard to resist” if Unison insists on pressing ahead with its action on November 30, despite just a fraction of its membership backing the walkout.
Less than 29% of the 1.1m Unison members took part in the ballot. A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times indicated considerable public opposition to the strike: 53% were opposed to it, compared with just 31% supporting the action.
Coalition sources say the government is resigned to negotiations with the unions collapsing in the row of pension reforms. Although ministers regard as a “last resort” new legislation on strike action —
setting minimum turnout levels in ballots — attitudes are hardening, making a change in the law a real prospect. A Whitehall insider said: “If trade unions trigger strike action based on ballots with very low turnouts, the case for reform would be hard to resist.”