Welsh Labour moves to ditch strike rules in NHS and schools

Media captionMark Drakeford said Welsh ministers prefer to solve problems by getting people around the table

Rules making it harder to call strikes in public services will be scrapped in Wales under Welsh Government plans.

Ministers will publish a bill on Monday to repeal parts of the UK government’s Trade Union Act of 2016.

Welsh Labour has pledged to ditch restrictions on industrial action in the NHS, the fire service, schools and other devolved services.

The UK government said people had “a right to expect protections from undemocratic strike action”.

One key restriction in the Westminster law is to allow strikes only if they are backed by 40% of a union’s members in a ballot.

Welsh ministers denied that they were seeking to satisfy Labour’s trade union funders and said public sector employers supported the plans.

The Welsh Government insisted the assembly has the power needed to change the law on taking industrial action, despite earlier rows with the UK government.

The Welsh bill will also overturn changes to the time allowed for union officials to spend on union work, and to the way union members pay their subscriptions.

But it will not overturn a new threshold for turnout in ballots, which requires half of union members to cast a vote before industrial action can take place.

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Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford told BBC Wales it was “absolutely not the case” that Labour was acting in the interest of unions, not the public.

“Employers in our public services are in support of the way we are bringing this bill forward,” he said.

“They see that this is the right way to do things for Wales as well.”

He added: “Of course the unions have a legitimate interest in this but the employers and the assembly were both in support of the way we are doing things as well.”

Before the 2016 assembly poll, most AMs voted against applying the Trade Union Act to Wales, with only the Conservatives voting in favour.

The UK and Welsh governments disagreed over whether the assembly’s permission was needed before the new rules applied to workers in Wales.

‘Political fantasies’

A Welsh Conservative spokesman said the Trade Union Act was about “ensuring Wales’ public services are not unduly disrupted without a fair mandate”.

He added: “Across Wales, ordinary union members are getting sick and tired of being held to ransom by union general secretaries, living out their political fantasies against the will of the workers.”

The UK government said: “We will examine the Welsh Assembly’s proposed legislation when it is introduced but we remain clear that decisions over industrial relations law is a matter for UK government.

“Ordinary working people have a right to expect protections from undemocratic strike action and the Trade Union Act will do just that.

“The assembly will have to explain to the Welsh public why it wants to repeal these.”

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