David Cameron’s plans to bring in new laws to restrict strikes “undermine basic workers’ rights”, the Liberal Democrats have said.
The prime minister revealed this afternoon that he wanted to bring in a minimum voter turnout for strike ballots. The move comes ahead of a nationwide strike by workers across the public sector tomorrow.
“The Tories will try to use Thursday’s event as way to undermine basic workers’ rights. We do not currently see the need to change the law,” a Liberal Democrat spokesperson told BuzzFeed.
“We disagree with the Tories’ assertion that a small turnout in strike-action ballots undermines the basic legitimacy of the strike. If they want to look at minimum turnout this will have major implications for other democratic turnouts and elections. Why have a threshold in a ballot but not make our elected politicians face the same hurdle?”
Firefighters, passport office workers, jobcentre advisers, courts staff, school support workers and teachers are expected to walk out tomorrow across the country as part of a row with the government about pay and conditions.
Local councillors, MEPs and Police Commissioners are regularly elected on turnouts below 50%, the level some Tories have called for strike ballots to achieve in order to be valid.
The Tories will go into the next election with the pledge in their manifesto. The criticism from the junior coalition partner effectively rules out a change in the law before the 2015 election, which would require the support of Liberal Democrat MPs.
When asked, however, the spokesperson did not explicitly rule out compromising on the Tory proposals in the event of a post-election coalition negotiations. She added that trade unions should not be striking due to the disruption it would cause, and accused Labour of being “in their pockets”.
David Cameron made the pledge to restrict workers’ right to strike at Prime Minister’s Questions in parliament this afternoon.
A spokesperson for the PCS trade union said: “This is tired old union-bashing of the kind we saw in the 70s and 80s and just shows how little the dinosaurs in the Tory party have moved on.”