Jeremy Corbyn refuses to condemn Len McCluskey over illegal strikes threat
Jeremy Corbyn has refused to condemn Len McCluskey over his threat to call illegal strike action over public sector pay.
The Labour leader's spokesman repeatedly failed to say he did not back the Unite general secretary's warning.
But in a sign of Labour splits on the issue, Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said the party would only support legal strike action, while his colleague Tracy Brabin said Mr McCluskey was “probably right”.
New trade union laws brought in last year mean at least 50% of those eligible to vote in a strike ballot must take part for any industrial action to be legal.
Speaking earlier this week, Mr McCluskey said: "If the Government have pushed us outside the law then they’ll have to stand the consequences...
"If they haven’t managed to hit an artificial threshold that this government have foolishly put onto the statute books, then I’ll stand by our members."
Asked if he condemned the remarks, Mr Corbyn's spokesman said: "We want to see the pay cap lifted immediately.
"We've opposed the arbitrary thresholds in the Trade Union Act, and if and when a Labour government is elected we will change the law to allow trade unions to operate freely and democratically."
Pressed again, he said: "Nobody wants to see strikes, we want to see the pay cap lifted and the anti-democratic trade union legislation changed."
He added: "No such strikes have been called, we're not in that situation. The important thing is to lift the pay cap and allow trade unions to operate democratically and freely."
Asked if Mr Corbyn believed people should abide by the law, the spokesman said: "Of course we support respecting the law, but the situation we're talking about here is a hypothetical one."
LABOUR SUPPORTS 'LEGAL' ACTION
But in an apparent split with the Labour leader, Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth told the Commons this afternoon: “The Labour party supports people taking legal industrial action.”
And in a further confusion of the position Shadow Education Minister Tracy Brabin told BBC Radio 4’s World at One Mr McCluskey was justified in making the threat.
“I would say given his position he is probably right because he needs the Government to listen, because they are not listening,” she said.
Theresa May today said she was “struck” by Mr McCluskey’s comments and said: “Once again the price of Labour is pain for ordinary working families."