The government has set out plans to reduce disruption to passenger journeys caused by rail strikes, but the move has been labelled a threat to workers’ rights by a major union.

Under the legislation, which was proposed in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, rail workers would be obligated to provide a minimum service during industrial action.

The law would see industrial action ruled unlawful unless a “minimum service agreement” is in place, with the threat of penalties levied against unions.

The RMT union has hit back at the proposal, claiming the move would essentially “ban workers across the sector from taking any kind of effective industrial action”.

The news comes during a month of strike action on South Western Railway in a long-running dispute over the role of guards on trains.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It hasn’t taken long for the true colours of this new Tory government to emerge… Nobody should be under any illusions about the scale of the threat now being lined up against the trade union movement. Banning strikes and denying workers the basic human right to withdraw their labour has been the hallmark of hard right, authoritarian regimes throughout history.

“It is no coincidence that this threat comes while our members on South Western Railway are continuing a month of rock-solid action in defence of the basic principle of a rail service that is safe and accessible for all.

“Instead of attacking rail workers fighting to defend safety and disabled access any responsible government should be tackling the scandal of private profiteering on Britain’s railways, which has reduced services to chaos.”

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