Socialist Worker

Fight for trade union freedom

Issue No. 2036

The campaign to change the anti-union laws is moving forward. The Trade Union Freedom Bill is to receive its second reading in parliament on Friday 2 March.

The bill is proposed by John McDonnell MP and backed by the TUC. If it is passed it will increase the freedom that trade unions have to organise.

Under the Tory anti-union laws, kept in place by New Labour, the unions are constrained in what action they can legally take.

It is very difficult to get a dispute started, and there are severe restrictions on picketing and secondary action.

The proposed bill would give all workers the right to strike or take official industrial action free from the fear of dismissal or victimisation. Employers would be prevented from sacking or penalising staff for taking action before, during or after a dispute.

Employers would be banned from taking unfair deductions from workers' pay for official industrial action. Employers would not be allowed to use legal loopholes to get injunctions against industrial action.

As the new Institute of Employment's report puts it, 'The law in Britain on trade disputes is today more restrictive on trade unions than it was 100 years ago after the passing of the Trade Disputes Act 1906.

'Globalisation, economic competition and the push for flexible working means that workers need the collective protection of trade unions more than ever.

'Employers haveÊadopted increasingly aggressive cost-cutting tactics to win subcontracted work from profitable transnational companies. The result has been too many examples of employers cutting pay, slashing pensions and announcing mass redundancies in the name of competition.

'Under existing legislation, unions feel overburdened with regulations and too often powerless to protect the interests of those workers they seek to represent.'

New Labour is opposed to the bill, but most of the major unions back the bill. The T&G union sponsors 76 Labour MPs and the GMB union sponsors 108. They must either vote for the Trade Union Freedom Bill or they should have their union sponsorship removed.

The bill is being actively supported by Organising for Fighting Unions which is calling on people to organise lobbies of their local MPs in the last two weeks of February.

Organising for Fighting Unions will be producing a briefing about the bill and a postcard to send to MPs. Phone Organising For Fighting Unions on 020 7612 5624 or e-mail [email protected]

For details of rallies see our events page.

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Article information

Sat 3 Feb 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2036
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