Labour would allow 'sympathy strikes' if it wins election, John McDonnell suggests

Posted On: 
22nd November 2019

A Labour government would allow workers to go out on strike in sympathy with employees in other industries, John McDonnell has suggested.

The 107-page policy document laid out plans to remove “unnecessary restrictions” on industrial action

The Shadow Chancellor said the current ban on so-called "secondary strikes" would be lifted if Jeremy Corbyn enters Number 10.

Mr McDonnell said "any worker should have the right to withdraw their labour" when pressed on the matter during an interview on Radio Four's Today programme.

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Labour's election manifesto, which was unveiled by Mr Corbyn in Birmingham on Thursday, laid out plans to remove “unnecessary restrictions” on industrial action, scrap the Trade Union Act 2016 and create new rights and freedoms for workers.

Secondary picketing, where workers can strike in solidarity with colleagues in a different industry, was banned under Margaret Thatcher's government.

Asked whether Labour would repeal that ban, Mr McDonnell said: "We’ll make sure people have the right, as in the ILO (International Labour organisation) convention, to withdraw their labour, yes.

"People will have the right to withdraw their labour but let’s be absolutely clear what we’re doing now in these structural reforms is making sure everyone has a vested interest in the operation of their company."

Mr McDonnell was then asked if he believed railway unions should be allowed to go on strike in sympathy with hospital workers and replied: "I believe any worker should have the right to withdraw their labour."

Pressed further on whether the UK could return to secondary picketing under a Labour government, he said: "No we're not, we’re creating a new climate in this country which is based upon a stakeholder economy where we all recognise we’ve got a stake in this economy, where we actually recognise we all have responsibilities as well.

“We’ve got to change the atmosphere about how we go forward...we’ve been arguing this for about 30 years.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also previously expressed his support of repealing the ban on secondary strikes, arguing it is legal in "most other countries".

A Conservative spokesperson said: "Labour’s unprecedented plans to rip up strike laws would hit families hard, with schools, hospitals and transport shutting down at the whims of Corbyn’s union baron bankrollers.

"With his plans for a four-day week and a return to 1970s strikes, Corbyn would cripple our NHS, economy and public services."