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Strikes can't be 'legislated away': Christian Lib Dem condemns anti-strike law

by Heather Preston

The government has come under fire over new anti-strike legislation to guarantee a minimum service level during strike action.

A bill was introduced to Parliament on Tuesday requiring minimum levels of service from ambulance staff, firefighters and railway workers during walkouts.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill will also cover education, border security and nuclear decommissioning sectors.

Ministers insist the new proposed laws 'still respect' the right to down tools - but will also save lives.

The proposals have been condemned as unworkable and illegal by unions, who warn the legislation would "poison industrial relations" and make disputes harder to resolve.

Downing Street claims the legislation will keep the public safe.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said the government will consult on what an "adequate level of coverage" would be in fire, ambulance and rail services but that "the British

people need to know that when they have a heart attack, a stroke or a serious injury, that an ambulance will turn up and that if they need hospital care they have access to it."

Details of the minimum service levels which will need to be maintained during strikes have yet to be set out.

Lizzie Jewkes from the Lib Dem Christian Forum told Premier legislation will do little to solve the problem.

"If they have time to look at legislation and discuss new laws, couldn't they use that time talking to the people who are clearly very unhappy.

"Nurses don't go on strike because they fancy a Friday afternoon off," she said.

Jewkes suggests that talks and negotiations are essential to minimise disruptive strike action.

"The way to avoid strikes is to make sure that people don't want to go on strike.

"That they feel valued, that they are earning enough, that they don't feel they need a second job, that they can feed their kids and heat their homes.

"That's how to stop people going on strike.

"It is not a problem that can be legislated away, we need to talk to people about, negotiate and create a relationship. Not legislate people to do what we want."

Jewkes says both Christians and government ministers need to have compassion for the strain and desperation of those on strike.

"It must be absolutely heart-breaking to be a nurse knowing that going on strike might mean that there are less patients when you get back because there's been no one to look

after them. That must be horrifying. And that shows the utter desperation that these people have been forced into," she added.

A national "protect the right to strike" day is due to take place on Wednesday 1 February in response to the Conservative's new anti-strike legislation.

Events will take place across the country to allow the public to show their support for workers taking action to defend their pay and conditions.



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