The Tories’ war on workers’ right to strike took a step forward this week as the second reading of the Trade Union Bill passed through parliament by 317 votes to 284.
The bill plans to introduce a 50 percent turnout for strike ballots in “important public sector services”.
It demands that at least 40 percent of eligible members vote to support any action.
It removes a ban on using agency staff to scab on strikers.
It also requires unions to inform police and employers of strike plans 14 days in advance.
They are supposed to include details such as if they will use placards or loudspeakers. It even demands to know what they will put on social media.
Picket lines are to have a “lead person” identified by an armband, who has given their details to police and employers.
Trade unionists have pointed out that this could effectively create a new blacklist.
Tory MPs who had bothered to turn up for the six-hour Commons debate denounced trade union “thugs” and “bullies”.
Tory business secretary Sajid Javid had the gall to insist that it was “all about democracy”.
But it is nothing of the sort. This is about halting resistance to austerity.
The Tories claim to have a mandate because 24 percent of the electorate voted for them at the general election. Yet if their new rules were applied to their own election 270 of them would not be MPs—including Javid.
The Tories were attacked by MPs from Labour, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Greens for their assault on human rights.
But reasoned discussion on using electronic ballots to boost turnouts, or saying that the average British worker only strikes once in 15 years is not effective opposition.
The Tories are ideologically driven and want our public services privatised.
They are not interested in helping unions meet the new requirements or being more democratic. They want to pressure union leaders to further police their own members.
Unions are to be forced to jump through more hoops to fight for their members’ interests. And the bosses are to be handed more legislation to challenge democratic votes in the courts to stop strikes.
As MPs debated the bill TUC leaders met for their annual conference in Brighton.
Over 150 trade unionists protested outside parliament. But sadly the vast majority of union leaders stayed on the south coast. Given the scale of the attack we need to see more than words, petitions or legal action.
It’s good that other Labour-run councils in Scotland are threatening to follow Glasgow’s lead and refuse to implement elements of the new anti-union laws.
This is a demand we should be putting to every Labour and SNP council across Britain. But it is not enough to only oppose bits of the bill.
To kill the bill we need to launch a wave of strikes, including unofficial action like we’ve seen from construction workers at Sellafield (see page 19).
What you can do
- TUC rally and lobby of parliament against the trade union bill, Monday 2 November, 2.30pm-5pm. Rally is at Central Hall, Westminster
- Defending Our Unions, Organising to Win. Unite the Resistance national conference, Saturday 14 November, central London. Book now at uniteresist.org