Socialist Worker

Time to fight for our unions

by Raymie Kiernan and Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2488

Activists discussed how to organise resistance in London last week

Activists discussed how to organise resistance in London last week (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Despite minor setbacks, the Tories’ push for even more anti-union laws continues—and must be resisted.

The Trade Union Bill went through its latest stages in the House of Lords last week.

A Labour motion was passed calling for further scrutiny of attempts to curb unions’ funding of political parties.

But the vast majority of the toxic attacks are going through.

The government has published the response to its consultation on strike ballot thresholds in “important public services”.

Workers in public education, fire, health and transport services are to have further restrictions placed on their right to strike. So will those involved in border security and nuclear decommissioning.

The bill will mean 40 percent of those eligible to vote must support strikes in these sectors for them to be legal.

That’s on top of the new requirement for 50 percent turnout in all ballots.

This will affect public and private sector workers and will apply “where a majority of affected workers are carrying out an important public service”.

There is no guarantee this won’t be expanded to include other workers “if further evidence is obtained”.


Despite overwhelming opposition from respondents the Tories batted off human rights concerns by saying their changes were “justified and proportionate”.

The one concession was “to remove the broad reference to ancillary workers”—but support workers could still have restrictions imposed depending on their role.

The bill goes to committee stage in the Lords on 8 February as the TUC’s “heartunions” week of action takes place in England and Wales.

The TUC is asking workplaces to join the live link up with its general secretary Frances O’Grady on 9 February. And a day of action has been called for 11 February.

“Maybe your workplace will do a rally or lunchtime walkout?” the TUC suggests. The week is a real opportunity to ramp up activity in workplaces against the new laws.

Around 100 people met in central London last Saturday to discuss building the fightback. Unite the Resistance organised the meeting.

It heard from junior doctors and medical students building for action during the TUC week.

FBU firefighters’ union head Matt Wrack said, “We’ve defeated trade union legislation before in the 1970s. We're not there now, but you rebuild the movement on the basis of struggle.”

People argued to be sober about where the trade union movement is, but that there’s also a massive potential for a fightback.

In Glasgow STUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham spoke against the Tory bill last Saturday at a People’s Assembly rally.

He said any union that defies “any aspect of this law, will have the full support of the STUC if they choose to do that”.

And he argued that the trade union movement had to take its opposition “to a whole new level”.

Go to 
Longer report of the meeting here

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