Watch as South Tyneside residents hit out at PM candidates' pledges to ban strike action in key services
South Tyneside residents have hit out at threats to introduce legislation to ban strike action saying it would leave companies ‘able to do do whatever they want’ to employees.
Shoppers in South Shields were responding to pledges during a recent TV debate made by prime ministerial candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to ban the right to take industrial action in key services.
When asked whether they would would “ban strikes in essential public services like the railways,” Mr Sunak replied: “Yes, it’s a manifesto promise and we need to deliver on it.”
Mrs Truss added: “I’ll do it.”
The question arose after several days of industrial action by RMT railway workers prevented many people from getting to work and paralysed large sections of the economy.
This Saturday (August 13) will see train drivers from an number of providers, including London North East Railway walk out, with further RMT national strikes scheduled for Thursday August 18 and Saturday August 20.
The threat to ban industrial action drew a strong reaction from trade union leaders who described it as a “declaration of war against the working people” – a view shared by many people in South Tyneside.
Kevin Radford, 61, from South Shields, who is currently unemployed, said: “If you remove the right to strike you remove the power of employees to maintain a decent standard of living.”
Retired labourer, Ron Gibbins, 69, from Boldon, added: “If you remove the right to strike then companies and governments can do what they want to employees.”
It was sentiment shared by retired landscape gardener Matthew Robinson, 74, from South Shields, who said: “If the Government stop the right to strike then where can people go and what power do they have if pay isn’t anywhere near matching the cost of living?”
Retired postman, David Udbery, 67, who’d travelled from North Shields, believes his former colleagues could soon be taking industrial action.
He said: “They’re really being squeezed at the moment. We went on strike twice. Once we got an improved deal and the second time we ended up going back as people couldn’t afford anymore unpaid days.
"I agree with the right to strike, including for key services, but only if it’s justified. If there are problems and as workers you feel you’re not being listened to then it sometimes your only course of action.”
Retired financial analyst, Alex Henry, from South Shields, is not against the principle of industrial action but feels a there should be a “higher threshold” for unions in key services to strike. The ballot threshold for strike action is currently 50 per cent of member votes.
Alex said: “I think this needs to be more like two-thirds to justify action. I wouldn’t ban strikes but I feel there needs to be greater control.”
The pledge has also been criticised by South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.
Speaking at a recent day of industrial action by BT workers, Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “I will always stand shoulder to shoulder with workers trying to get a fair deal.
"I’m not surprised by the pledge – I believe it was part of the Tory Party’s last manifesto. They’re obviously vying for votes with party members but if they do try and bring this in there will be a real backlash from the unions.”