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The right to strike must be defended

news Press Release 26 Jan 2024

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) stands in absolute support of the rights of workers across the world to take strike action.

The right to strike is enshrined in international labour law under ILO Convention 87 (which the UK has ratified) and the principles of freedom of association, the right to strike can only be restricted in extremely limited circumstances.

Last year, the Conservative Party introduced the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act which gained Royal Assent in July. Under this law, the UK Government alone can decide what constitutes a minimum service level thereby giving them the power to force workers to abandon strike action under threat of legal penalties.

ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said: “Across the world transport workers have been forced into taking strike action to defend their rights in the teeth of a cost-of-living crisis. The right to strike is a tool of last resort by trade unions, and one that is never taken lightly. When any government seeks to take that right away, we will oppose them and so we stand in solidarity with all unions in the UK and across the globe in defending that right.”

ITF President Paddy Crumlin said: “We were out on the streets of Argentina this week standing up for the rights of workers in that country whose unions are facing attacks by the rabid new President. And in the UK, it seems fitting that the march in Cheltenham marks 40 years since Margaret Thatcher’s brutal attack GCHQ workers where she said it wasn’t possible for someone to be in a union and be loyal to their country, which resulted GCHQ workers being sacked for refusing to give up their union membership. The ITF calls on all governments to respect the rights that generations of workers across the world have fought for – including the right to strike.”

“Under ILO Convention 87 and the principles of freedom of association, the right to strike can only be restricted in extremely limited circumstances” said Ruwan Subasinghe, the ITF’s Legal Director “In public services of fundamental importance, no government should have such broad powers to restrict the right to strike.”

Ahead of the national demonstration being organised by the British TUC on Saturday (January 27) in Cheltenham, where the GCHQ strike took place in 1984, TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said that as trade unions, “We will use every lever at our disposable to defeat these unworkable – and almost certainly illegal - new laws. We will name and shame any employer or public body that uses this legislation. We will challenge every work notice issued by employers. And the full force of the whole union movement will stand behind any worker disciplined or sacked for exercising their right to strike.     

The TUC march and rally in Cheltenham will speakers from ITF’s UK affiliates including RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch, ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan, TSSA General Secretary Maryam Eslamdoust and Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham.


Media contact:  Siân Manaz +44 (0)7850 736145  <>

About the ITF:  The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a global, democratic, affiliate-led movement of 740 transport workers’ unions recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve working lives, connecting trade unions and workers’ networks from 153 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members. We are the voice of the 20 million transport workers who move the world.

Note: The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has consistently held that the imposition of minimum services must not result in strikes becoming ineffective in practice because of its limited impact, thereby creating the impression among workers that a strike has come to nothing because of overgenerous and unilaterally fixed minimum services.