UK PM hopeful Truss takes aim at trade unions in leadership contest

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LONDON (Reuters) - Foreign secretary Liz Truss will promise on Tuesday to bring in "tough and decisive action" to limit strike action by trade unions if she becomes Britain's next prime minister, the latest salvo in a divisive fight to lead the Conservative Party.

In a week when rail unions are planning to strike over pay freezes and job cuts, front-runner Truss said she would introduce a new law in her first 30 days that would guarantee a minimum level of service on "vital national infrastructure" and also raise the minimum threshold for trade union strike votes.

Truss is trying to set the agenda for the leadership contest against former finance minister Rishi Sunak, by appealing to the Conservative Party membership, who will appoint their next leader, and Britain's prime minister, on Sept. 5.

Both candidates have tilted to the right to win over a membership which, according to one academic study tends to be older, male, southern English and supporters of Brexit.

"We need tough and decisive action to limit trade unions’ ability to paralyse our economy," Truss said in a statement.

"I will do everything in my power to make sure that militant action from trade unions can no longer cripple the vital services that hard-working people rely on."

Britain faces a summer of disruption as workers across the economy, struggling with a rising cost of living squeeze, resort to strike action in disputes over pay and conditions.

Rail workers brought services near to a standstill last month, British lawyers involved in criminal trails have staged walkouts, while teachers and doctors are threatening to strike.

The contest was launched when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation earlier this month after a mass rebellion by the party's lawmakers triggered by the latest in a series of scandals that had fatally undermined trust.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Editing by William Maclean)