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OPINION - Angela Rayner has delivered a striker’s charter

Deputy Labour Party leader Angela Rayner speaking at the TUC congress (PA)
Deputy Labour Party leader Angela Rayner speaking at the TUC congress (PA)

There was a bit of Angela Rayner’s barnstorming appearance at the TUC yesterday which should have worried business — and that was before she even started. It was when TUC president Maria Exall introduced her as “one of us” — as opposed to Sir Keir Starmer, who really doesn’t have the worker vibe.

Ange herself declared that she may have been born in Stockport but was “raised in the trade union movement”. Labour’s deputy leader then delivered a succession of pledges, including a “cast-iron” one about an Employment Rights Bill within 100 days of a Labour government. And it’s elements of that which suggest that the business-friendly mask has slipped and the prawn cocktail for wooing the City can be re-fridged.

What we’ve got is a striker’s charter. The most important elements of it are the rolling back of two crucial laws. One from the David Cameron era required that at least half the workforce must vote for strike action, which was a powerful incentive for unions to win over their members. It raised the bar for going on strike. The other, very recent addition is the Government’s requirement for a minimum service provision in a strike: so, whether it’s doctors or train drivers, there must be some service provided, even if it’s exiguous. Does anyone remember the months of strikes when teachers, nurses, rail staff and what seemed like the whole public sector swanned off in succession. Fun, no?

The devil is in the detail — closing gender pay gaps sounds good, but it helped bankrupt Birmingham Council

Well, Ange calls this “a spiteful and bitter attack that threatens nurses with the sack”. I don’t myself think nurses should go on strike, but when they or teachers do, then the people actually affected — patients and children — should be protected. Us, in other words.

There are, of course, targets on Ange’s hit list that I wouldn’t mind going down; I despise the gig economy and if Labour goes for zero-hours contracts, great. And it’s fine to give unions access to workers.

But the devil is in the detail — closing gender pay gaps sounds good, but it helped bankrupt Birmingham Council. The TUC loved Ange; the rest of us should start thinking seriously about what a Labour government will really mean. It looks like trouble from here.