Keir Starmer has set his face against government proposals to tighten restrictions on the right to strike as the UK braces for a winter of discontent.
The Labour leader said that new laws to limit industrial action are not “the best way forward”.
Reports suggest that prime minister Rishi Sunak is considering rushing through an anti-strikes bill in response to the threat of walkouts in the NHS, rail and postal services.
Options under consideration are understood to include using agency workers to fill crucial roles and making it easier for bosses to replace strikers permanently.
The plans come as the government pushes legislation through parliament to impose legally-binding minimum service levels on essential services like the railways during industrial action.
Asked if he would repeal minimum service laws if he became prime minister, Sir Keir replied: “I don’t think more legislation restricting the right to strike is the right way forward.
“I think government should fix the underlying problem. Government has been sitting on its hands throughout these disputes, rather than resolving them.
“Go to Wales and you will see a different government taking a different approach and some not dissimilar disputes have actually been resolved.
“What underpins these industrial disputes? It’s a cost-of-living crisis which is pressing down on people because the economy isn’t working.”
Downing Street played down the prospect of any further anti-strike legislation in the near future, but confirmed that proposals like the extension of the use of agency workers were being kept “under review”.
Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson told reporters: “Our focus on legislation with regard to strikes is on minimum service levels. The bill we introduced in October is the first step in achieving this.
“We are keeping under review what is the right balance with regard to strikes. We won’t hestitate to bring forwad changes if we judge they are required,”