Socialist Worker

TUC demands more than platitudes to take on the Tories’ latest attack

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans in Brighton
Issue No. 2471

On the stage at the TUC protecting the right to strike

On the stage at the TUC protecting the right to strike (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Trade union leaders ratcheted up their rhetoric against the Tories’ new anti-union bill on Tuesday of this week at the annual TUC conference in Brighton.

They unanimously backed “supporting workers taking joint/coordinated industrial action” and giving maximum support to “trade unions that may find themselves outside the law”.

Moving the motion Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey said, “Platitudes about how pugnacious the law is are just that—platitudes.” He urged unions to not just think about acting within the law but also urged using “the language of modernity and democracy”.

But a clear strategy of striking to win was lacking. In her address Frances O’Grady appealed for people to write to their MPs. 

She told Socialist Worker that the TUC lobby of parliament’s third reading of the bill was not too late. “The TUC is running a smart and well-supported campaign. We’re going to be throwing the kitchen sink at defeating this bill,” she said. 

“There is a great majority of fair minded people and MPs we’re appealing to.”

Every single union opposes the Tory bill. The point of contention came when the RMT union moved a motion calling for the “possibility of assisting in organising generalised strike action should legal action be taken against any affiliate in connection with these new laws”.

It passed with a tiny minority against. The general council supported it with qualification that “generalised” is ambiguous. 

O’Grady said, “The TUC will always be ready to support affiliates, but members need clarity on what the action they’re being asked to take is.”

UCU delegate Richard McEwan supported the RMT motion. He said, “If we want to defeat this bill we need to look to the new movement. 

“It’s good that unions marched on the People’s Assembly demonstration. The tens of thousands who march for migrants on Saturday are our allies and where we should be. 

“Today strikes have never been more popular among members. 

“We need to march in Manchester and shut the city down.” 


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