Striking NHS workers could be targeted as part of new “tough” measures promised by Rishi Sunak to stem a wave of industrial action, Downing Street has suggested.
Number 10 said the government had not ruled out plans to stop the strike by nurses and ambulance drivers, a significant escalation from earlier threats to clamp down on striking rail workers.
However, it seems unlikely that such measures will come into force this winter to prevent imminent strikes.
Sunak promised “tough new laws to protect people” from the chaos unfolding in the public sector, given the growing number of workers planning to stage strikes in the coming weeks.
Speaking to questions from the prime minister, he accused unions of making “unreasonable” requests for wage increases.
On the 10th he repeatedly refused to rule out that the promised new laws would be used to stop strikes across the country. National Health Service.
The day after it was announced that ambulance staff from most of England and Wales would go on strike on December 21 over a pay dispute, Sunak’s press secretary was asked if ambulance workers would be banned from striking. emergency services.
She said: “I can’t rule anything out or in. The policy is still being developed and it would be wrong for me to comment or speculate on what that policy might be.”
Sunak’s spokesman also said they were “not getting into what may or may not be” in future anti-strike legislation.
The Royal College of Nursingwhose members will go on strike on December 15 and 20 in parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, accused the government of playing “cheap and divisive political games” and urged ministers to focus on negotiations.
Pat Cullen, the union’s general secretary, said: “Hundreds of thousands of decent, hard-working people should not be dismissed as ‘unreasonable’ for expecting better for themselves, their families and their patients. The Prime Minister appears to be out of touch with the public if he intends to attack nursing staff in this way.”
Labor cast doubt on the idea that the government would introduce anti-strike laws in time to prevent some of this winter’s industrial action.
A spokesman for Keir Starmer said: “The government is not serious about preventing these attacks. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t pick up the newspaper and read that the government has announced a new policy that is going to get tough on this issue. It is not a serious government that works in a serious way for the people of this country.”
However, the spokesman was unable to give concrete details on how Labor might handle the negotiations differently. They refused to ask the government to provide more money to the departments and did not say whether the party would introduce any new legislation if it wins the upcoming elections.
Labor opposes some proposed new rules, which would require transit workers to provide set minimum levels of service. But Starmer’s spokesman did not commit to repealing them if he is elected.
“The next Labor government will tackle the cost of living crisis, which is why these strikes are taking place,” they said.