UK Government warned of ‘growing support for independence’ over plan to scrap Welsh law
The UK Government have been warned over a “growing support for independence” in Wales as it plans to scrap a Welsh law.
The UK Government confirmed last week that they would move to scrap a law passed by the Senedd, as part of their push to crack down on trade unions.
They said that the Trade Union Wales Act in 2017, which prohibited using temporary workers to cover industrial action, would be done away with.
Labour Senedd Member Carolyn Thomas has now written to the UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to say that his move could “undermine” the United Kingdom.
She said that the announcement, “made without even the courtesy of informing the Welsh Government” was a “direct attack on the Welsh trade union movement and devolution”.
“Given the growing calls for a second independence referendum in Scotland and the growth of support for independence in Wales, it is astonishing to see the UK Government engage so brazenly in behaviour which severely undermines devolution, and by extension, the union of the United Kingdom,” Carolyn Thomas said.
“Attempting to use agency workers to undermine strike action is a puerile vacation of responsibility by this government to provide answers to the cost-of-living crisis and the legitimate demands of the working people of the UK.
“Instead of actively undermining the Union your party claims to be so committed to, perhaps the Government of the UK could instead learn some lessons from the trade union movement in relation to uniting the working people of this country.
“In the words of Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT): ‘we refuse to be poor anymore!’
“I would implore you to urgently cancel plans to scrap the Trade Union (Wales) Act 2017, to stop wilfully undermining the United Kingdom and to concentrate on providing support to the people of this country suffering at the hands of a hugely debilitating cost-of-living crisis.”
It was revealed last month that the UK Government law that will attempt to reduce the effectiveness of strikes would apply in Wales as well.
The UK government said it “intends to legislate to remove the Trade Union (Wales) Act 2017 through primary legislation when Parliamentary time allows, to ensure trade union legislation applies equally across Great Britain”.
Mark Drakeford said that the UK Government’s plan was “nonsense” and an attempt to distract from their own incompetence.
“How are they going to get a train to run, how will those other roles get a signal box to operate?” he asked.
“It’s just sand in people’s eyes. Where was that Government last week when it ought to have been round the table helping to resolve this difficulty, why wasn’t it there speaking up on behalf of the travelling population trying to find a solution.
“We’ve got a government which is absent on the job, it doesn’t engage where it ought to engage. It indulges in make believe sorts of policies in order to try throw sand in people’s eyes to hide their own abject failures. That’s all this is about.”
Plaid Cymru called the move a “blatant attack on devolution,” adding “only Welsh independence can protect worker rights and Wales’ democracy.”
The General Secretary of TUC Cymru, Shavanah Taj, said the act was introduced to protect workers’ basic rights.
“The UK Government seems determined to attack both workers’ rights and devolution in one go, by introducing an entirely unnecessary piece of legislation,” she said. “It beggars’ belief that in a cost of living crisis, this is their priority.
“We will fiercely oppose any attempts to attack workers’ rights and we look forward to a future where workers throughout the UK have the strongest employment rights in Europe, instead of the weakest.”
UK Government ministers said that under current trade union laws, employment businesses are restricted from supplying temporary agency workers to cover for strikers, saying it can have a “disproportionate impact”.
The legislation will repeal the “burdensome” legal restrictions, giving businesses impacted by strike action the freedom to tap into the services of employment businesses who can provide skilled, temporary agency staff at short notice, said the UK Government.
It would also help mitigate against the impact of future strikes, such as those seen on the railways this week, by allowing trained, temporary workers to carry out crucial roles to keep trains moving, ministers said.
They gave examples of skilled temporary workers being able to fill vacant positions such as train dispatchers.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Once again trade unions are holding the country to ransom by grinding crucial public services and businesses to a halt. The situation we are in is not sustainable.
“Repealing these 1970s-era restrictions will give businesses freedom to access fully skilled staff at speed, all while allowing people to get on with their lives uninterrupted to help keep the economy ticking.”
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