“From clapping nurses to sacking nurses” – Zarah Sultana’s defends the #RightToStrike


“This new law would see key workers such as nurses, railway workers, firefighters and teachers fired for going on strike – from clapping nurses to sacking nurses.”

Zarah Sultana MP

This article is a published version of the speech given by Zarah Sultana MP in debate on the second reading of the Tories’ Minimum Service Bill.

Politics costs money, and I am proud to be backed by organisations that represent the working class, rather than by the billionaires, oil and gas profiteers and big businesses that bankroll the Conservative party. They represent no one but themselves.

There was a brief period in the pandemic when we all recognised who keeps our country running. It was not city bankers, hot-shot lawyers or big business executives; it was the people who drive our buses, sweep our streets, post our mail, teach our kids and nurse us back to health.

Briefly, even Conservative Members thanked them. They called key workers “heroes” and clapped for them when the cameras were rolling. But as key-workers knew, clapping does not pay the bills and, after a decade of falling wages, they could not go on. As the cost of living soars, workers are saying, “Enough is enough” and demanding a better deal.

Of course, the Government’s line has changed. Conservative Members are now calling workers greedy and selfish. They have started pitting workers against each other, saying that railway staff should not get a pay rise if nurses do not, but that nurses were not allowed one either.

Now they have stooped to an anti-worker Bill that threatens the civil liberties of us all.

This new law would see key workers such as nurses, railway workers, firefighters and teachers fired for going on strike—from clapping nurses to sacking nurses. The Government say that it is about safety, but that word is not mentioned even once in the pages of the Bill. They say it is about bringing us in line with other European nations, but Britain already has some of the most restrictive anti-union laws in the western world. No matter what they say, it is definitely not about resolving current disputes; it is only about inflaming tensions and making negotiations harder.

What the Bill is really about is shifting the balance of power: weakening the power of workers and making it easier for bosses to exploit them and for the Government to ignore them.

I will finish with a message to those watching at home who are not sure about the strikes. If your pay is too low and your bills are too high, if you are struggling to make ends meet, and if you cannot get a doctor’s appointment, you are not alone. But the problem is not striking workers, immigrants, refugees, trans people or whoever the right-wing press are scapegoating today. The problem is this Tory Government, their 13 years of disastrous rule and the rigged economy they have built. Alongside record numbers of food banks, Britain has record numbers of billionaires, record profits for big businesses and record wealth for the top 1%.

Let us bring together everyone who has had enough and, from the picket line to Parliament, let us fight for a better deal.

Featured image: Zarah Sultana at the RMT demo against the Right to strike, held outside of Downing Street on January 16th, 2023. Photo credit: Zarah Sultana MP/twitter

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