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Minimum Service Levels: a vindictive and divisive Tory smokescreen

Napo’s General Secretary Ian Lawrence addressed the TUC’s special congress last Saturday, speaking out against the “vindictive and divisive” government attacks on the trade union movement.
  • Napo’s General Secretary Ian Lawrence addressed the TUC’s special congress last Saturday, speaking out against the “vindictive and divisive” government attacks on the trade union movement.

  • Calls for wider public awareness of the workers’ rights secured by unions over the years.

  • Pledges to stand in solidarity with sister trade unions whose members are impacted by Minimum Service Levels and to reaffirm Napo’s commitment to the trade union movement.


Despite my earlier train being cancelled, I’m proud today to be sitting next to our colleagues from ASLEF as they and a number of other unions continue their courageous struggle for justice for their members as we approach the end of a year of resistance not seen for decades.

It’s been a real privilege to hear about the valiant struggles being waged by our sister unions.

In the Probation and FCS our members are not currently facing the threat of MSLs but there’s no room for complacency on our part.

This campaign that we are launching today must extend beyond defending the obviously fundamental right to withdraw one’s Labour, but it must also be an opportunity for all of us to assert the important role that unions have had (and do still have) in UK society, and the economy as we pick up the challenge laid down by Paul Novak and other speakers to regalvanise our movement.

In doing so, there is a need to raise awareness through this campaign to point out to the wider non-aligned public of the many achievements that trade unions have secured in the last two centuries of organised struggle:

  • paid sick leave
  • paid holidays
  • flexible working
  • maternity and paternity leave
  • equality legislation across our 9 protected characteristic communities
  • the right to representation
  • the minimum wage campaigns
  • collective bargaining and national agreements across various sectors
  • the millions upon millions of pounds saved by the use of resolution disputes procedures
  • our support for international peace and development

And, most recently the Furlough scheme, without which we may have seen millions of people queuing up for bread, but yes of course, the sacrifices of working people as long ago as those waged by the diggers, the levellers the Tolpuddle Martyrs and others, that have been won by industrial struggle where necessary.

And why is this important? Because essentially, we are facing the biggest challenge ever against our right to exist and a vindictive and divisive campaign by the Tories to narrow down the debate simply to the question of the right to strike as a smokescreen for their stunning ineptitude and criminal incompetence in so many areas.

Of course, that’s without question as far as we are concerned; but this campaign must reach out to a wider audience. Those workers not in a union, those workers who want to be in a union, and vitally, young workers and those not yet in the job market and crucially new representatives in our workplaces.

And while Napo doesn’t have a policy to support a General Strike let me tell you what we do have a policy on:

  • to defend any worker who is impacted by an MSL
  • a call to those employers where we are represented to have no truck with MSLs  in the future
  • resistance in exposing the failures and corruption of this wretched Government and its approach to employee relations, and to expose the lie that somehow the trade union movement represents the enemy within, when we know only too well who the real enemy is.

So, Napo will play a full part in the campaign to come, we will join in the defence of individual and collective rights, we will stand in solidarity against employers who don’t show the moral fibre to resist the pernicious MSL legislation and we will reaffirm our loyalty and commitment to the institution of Trade Unions and all that we stand for now and in the decades ahead.

For when it comes to the difference between this soon to be history government and what we in the movement stand for, I would offer this analogy from the world of sport, that form is often temporary, but class, (especially our class and the principles we stand for) are very much a permanent fixture.

Solidarity of course; but lets wish ourselves resolve and courage, and commitment … we’ll need heaps of it in the months ahead.


One Response

  1. Members I speak to here in the Eastern Region share the concerns raised by our Ian Lawrence General Secretary regarding this attack on the Trade Union movement in attempt to reduce workers rights down to nothing.

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