Richard Arthur, head of trade union law at Thompsons, comments on Grant Shapps’ ’16-point plan to beat rail strikers’.

“This is self-serving nonsense from Grant Shapps.

“Workers don’t take the decision to go on strike except as a necessary last resort. They go on strike because they’re not being listened to by their employers, and because they’re not getting their fair share.

“The sense of injustice is magnified when shareholders get their dividends, management get their double digit pay rises and ordinary workers get pennies. All in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis in which the government won’t put a stop to the energy price cap rise and take the measures necessary to curb inflation. It’s one way traffic from this government.

“Grant Shapps should appreciate and acknowledge that the right to strike is an internationally recognised fundamental human right, which is protected by international conventions which have been ratified by the United Kingdom. These include conventions of the International Labour Organisation, a tripartite agency of the UN involving employers, workers’ representatives and government.

“It’s not a matter of ‘union barons’ ‘holding the country to ransom’ or the ‘intimidatory tactics on picket lines’ that Shapps claims.

“In 2014, Ministers commissioned a review from Bruce Carr QC into the law governing industrial disputes, including ‘alleged use of extreme tactics’ and the effectiveness of the legal framework to prevent ‘inappropriate or intimidatory actions in trade disputes.’ Bruce Carr made no finding himself of intimidatory conduct in industrial disputes and observed that ‘In the vast majority of cases, picketing is carried out peacefully and clearly in line with the [then] Code of Practice on Picketing’.

“Industrial action is a means of restoring some of the balance in the face of an employer’s power to make people redundant (see for example P&O), fire and re-hire on lesser terms and conditions (see for example British Airways and Centrica), let managers pocket pay rises and bonuses many times higher than workers on the shop floor (see for example Sainsbury) and pay dividends to their shareholders (see for example oil companies, healthcare and telecom companies).

“We’re living in a country where the cost of living is getting higher faster than in any other G7 country. Without an effective right to strike, negotiating for a pay rise too often means begging for a pay rise. This government is focused on trying to take away the means by which workers can negotiate effectively to get the pay rises they need and deserve.”