Socialist Worker

Labour fails key test on trade union rights

Issue No. 2225

Left wing Labour MP John McDonnell’s attempt to make minor improvements to trade union law failed last week.

The Tories played dirty and talked his Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill out of time.

They wouldn’t have got away with it had there been enough Labour MPs there to stop them.

McDonnell tried to stop Tory MPs talking out his bill by calling a vote to force a second reading of the bill.

To win this required 100 yes votes. But only 82 Labour MPs bothered to turn up—out of 258.

Lack of Labour support for such tiny changes to trade union law is appalling. Even McDonnell describes the bill as “a very minor, technical amendment”.

Currently, bosses can take unions to court on the flimsiest of excuses to stop workers striking even after they have democratically voted to do so.

McDonnell’s bill simply would have made it a bit harder for bosses to get action outlawed based on such minor details.

Trade unions sponsor most Labour MPs. And most unions have policy that goes much further than McDonnell’s bill demanded.

But Labour in opposition has failed this early test of whether it would stand up for workers.

And what of “Red” Ed Miliband, elected Labour leader with union backing? He didn’t show up either.

But while Miliband can’t bring himself to take the smallest measures to support workers, he has been reassuring the bosses that he will defend them.

Miliband addressed the bosses’ CBI conference this week. He said, “The change Tony Blair brought to our party rightly made us more open to the business community.”

Many Labour members will be furious at their MPs’ failure to back the unions. They will also want to fight the cuts.

All of us who oppose the Tory assaults need to unite in action.

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What We Think
Tue 26 Oct 2010, 17:31 BST
Issue No. 2225
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