Socialist Worker

Defy Tory Trade Union Bill

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2479

Workers protest against the bill last week

Workers protest against the bill last week (Pic: Dave Gilchrist)


Tory MPs were set to push the Trade Union Bill through its third reading on Tuesday of this week. They are determined to axe more public services and undermine any trade union opposition.

They know that determined resistance from workers can beat them.

Trade unions could do worse than copy the workers at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas).

They walked out at the end of October to defend Unison union branch secretary Sandy Nicoll.

Bosses wanted to get rid of Sandy before driving through huge cuts. They suspended him on trumped up charges. But his colleagues defied the anti-union laws and walked out—three times.

Sandy was reinstated. He said, “We’ve built a tradition at Soas where the unions don’t cross each other’s picket lines.

“And we stand with one another in solidarity because it makes us all stronger.

“Bosses are looking at what the Tories are doing and thinking, now is the time to have a go. They know they’re coming for us and will try to weaken the unions.”

Mobilise

Yet rather than mobilise the collective power of six million trade unionists in Britain union leaders look elsewhere.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady places her faith in the “employers queuing up to criticise the Trade Union Bill” and “backbench Conservatives seeking to amend” it. She took credit for a “climbdown” on some of the more draconian aspects of the bill.

The Tories decided that forcing pickets to give their names to the police and the requirement for a named picket line supervisor are to be dropped.

Unions won’t have to annually report details of all protests and pickets or give advance notice of these protest plans to employers.

Of course this is good—but it is not a defeat for the Tories.

Like any decent negotiator, they had simply started by going for more than they expected to get.

So picket supervisors will still have to wear an identifying armband and carry a permission letter for the picket that bosses can demand to see. And they still have to give their details to the police.

If this is the best the TUC strategy can offer, it’s time to step it up.

When the Tories try to enforce their new legislation, how are trade unionists going to respond?

As Sandy argues on page 11, “The only way we’re going to defeat that is if we take the unofficial action and go beyond what our union bureaucrats will permit.

“Soas shows this can be done.”

Sandy is speaking at the Unite the Resistance conference this Saturday. Go to uniteresist.org

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