THE head of the UK’s largest trade union body has warned that the entire trade union movement will rally behind any worker who is sacked under a controversial new law which ensures a minimum level of services during strike action.

The head of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the UK’s largest trade union body, said unions “won’t be bullied” by the legislation, which has been described by many as an anti-strike law.

Meanwhile, in Scotland the Government has been outspoken against the new legislation, saying it would not enforce the act in Scotland.

READ MORE: MSPs vote to reject UK Government's 'unwanted' anti-strike laws

Neil Gray (below), Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy, said "the Scottish Government is vehemently opposed to this bill in its entirety".

The National: Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray described the Bill as ‘unnecessary, unwanted and ineffective’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Writing to Kevin Hollinrake in July, the UK Government's under secretary of state for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Gray said: "The Scottish Government is implacable in its view that this bill is unnecessary, unwanted and ineffective.

"It seeks to undermine legitimate trade union activity and does not respect the Scottish Government’s fair work principles of effective voice, fulfilment, opportunity, respect and security.

"The UK Government’s introduction of this wholly unwelcome bill is unnecessarily inflammatory and will therefore act against the interest of the public."

The Government brought forward the new law following 18 months of strikes by hundreds of thousands of workers including nurses, teachers, junior doctors, civil servants and train drivers.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 means that workers in six industries will be unable to strike in certain circumstances as employers are required by law to provide a minimum service level to keep a service running.

This applies to health, education, transport and fire and rescue services, as well as border security and the decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste.

Unions have vowed to fight the law, under which workers could face being sacked if minimum levels of service are not maintained.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak (below) said: ”Nobody withdraws their labour lightly. It is the last resort when employers refuse to talk and refuse to compromise.

The National: TUC rally – London

“The action taken by union members in 2023 forced bosses across the country back to the negotiating table and secured better deals.

“Unions will do everything in our power to defend that right to strike. It is a cornerstone of our democracy.

“We won’t be intimidated by this Government, and we won’t be bullied.

“The Tories’ Strikes Act is toxic, unworkable, undemocratic and likely illegal and it’s a brazen attempt to try stop working people winning better pay and conditions.

“The entire trade union movement will rally behind any worker who is sacked for exercising their right to strike.”

READ MORE: Neil Gray: Tory anti-strike laws trample on devolution

In Scotland, other MSPs expressed “solidarity” with workers elsewhere in the UK who would be impacted by the new legislation.

Scottish Greens trade union spokesperson Maggie Chapman (below) said: “This debate matters to us in Scotland because workers’ rights should always matter to us. And I express my solidarity with those workers elsewhere in the UK who will be negatively affected by this legislation.

The National: Maggie Chapman

“We should be standing up against any legislation that undermines the principles of democratic participation and fair labour practices that must be central to any socially just society.

“Collective bargaining is a cornerstone of modern labour relations, and any law that limits the right to strike or other options of dispute resolution diminishes the bargaining power of workers.

“This can lead to even more unequal power dynamics between employers and employees than already exist: favouring the interests of the powerful over those who work for them will only perpetuate inequalities. Indeed, I believe that strong workers' rights are essential for building a fair and just society.”

READ MORE: Trade union seeks compensation for firefighters who develop cancer

The Scottish TUC (STUC) expressed opposed to the legislation, as general secretary Roz Foyer (below) called the act a “shambolic, unmitigated attack” on the trade union movement.

The National: Members from various trade unions gather for a pay protest rally at the Buchanan Street steps, Glasgow. Pictured is Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC...Photograph by Colin Mearns.26 August 2022.

Foyer said: “Clearly running out of ideas and in a grotesque attempt to frame this legislation as reasonable, the Tory UK Government’s plans for Minimum Service Levels are a shambolic, unmitigated attack on our movement that not only undermines devolution but undercuts our democratic right to strike.

"It’s clear they are absolutely running scared of the collective action of empowered workers and know fine well that their scapegoating of our movement will not last.

“The Scottish Government must, in so far as possible, take a stand of non-compliance with this legislation across every sector of our workforce.

"We must all stand against this attack and should there be an incoming Labour UK government at the next general election, they must stick to their word and scrap this pernicious policy.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer pledged in January that a Labour government would repeal the act.

Angela Rayner (below), Labour’s deputy leader and shadow deputy prime minister, said: “This Government’s failed approach has led to the worst strikes in decades causing havoc for working people this Christmas.

The National:

“Rishi Sunak’s ‘sacking nurses Bill’ is nothing but another sticking plaster to distract from the Conservatives’ 13 years of failure. We all want minimum standards of service and staffing, but it’s Tory ministers who are consistently failing to provide them.

“Only Labour can offer the change Britain needs, with industrial relations fit for a modern economy, where issues can be resolved before they escalate.”

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government believes that the ability to strike is important, but this needs to be balanced with the rights of the public to access essential public services, such as ambulances and rail, when they need them.

“We expect trade unions to comply with the law and play their part in delivering minimum service levels.”