Cameron ‘watered down anti-strike laws in union Brexit deal’

Military on 'stand-by' as ministers prepare for wave of strikes

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David Cameron secretly watered down anti-strike laws to get big trade unions to campaign against Brexit, according to reports. The former Prime Minister ditched planned legislation to allow agency workers to fill staffing gaps after seeking assurances that the major unions would “campaign actively” for Remain in the 2016 referendum.

It comes as Rishi Sunak is looking at bringing back the law change as he faces a series of strikes this month. 

Leaked documents, reported in The Sun, show No10 was ready to scrap restrictions on “temporary/agency workers being hired during periods of industrial action”.

But the move was abandoned “because of a deal between to Cameron government and a number of trade unions, to persuade them to campaign actively for Remain in the EU referendum”.

Conservative MP Greg Smith said the deal was “deeply troubling”.

He added: “Militant unions are holding the country to ransom this Christmas, at a time when traders need the support at a time the economy is fragile and patients need to access treatment when Covid backlogs remain long.

“It is outrageous that the unions persist on their course to crash Britain.

“But it is equally disappointing to understand union reforms were watered down in the past in order to secure support for the EU.”

It comes amid a growing wave of public sector strikes threatening to grind the country to a halt this winter.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has unleashed more train strike dates over Christmas.

Its members will down tools from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on December 27, on top of walkouts already planned next week.

And unions today announced thousands of ambulance workers and other NHS staff will strike on December 21 in a row over pay.

The GMB, Unison and Unite are co-ordinating industrial action across England and Wales after accusing the Government of ignoring pleas for a decent wage rise.

The strike will happen a day after members of the Royal College of Nursing stage their second walkout also over pay.

Downing Street today said there are “significant planning meetings” taking place across Government to manage potential disruption from strike action.

Asked if there are plans for any Cobra meetings, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I mean, there’s already significant cross-Government planning being led out of Cabinet Office, very regular meetings involving all Government departments on this.

“We don’t normally get into Cobra meetings but there are significant planning meetings across Government already taking place.”

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