Union leaders greeted Boris Johnson’s first week as prime minister by pleading with him to improve workers’ rights. Which is weak even by their standards.
Johnson’s government will further attack workers and hand more money to their rich mates—while using vicious racism to divide us.
It will be a viciously right wing government and we urgently need to organise real resistance to it.
Frances O’Grady, TUC union federation general secretary, last week urged Johnson to “get on with enhancing labour protections now”. “It’s not right that millions of workers still don’t know how much they’ll earn from one week to the next,” she said.
“A good start would be to ban zero-hours contracts and give low-paid workers the right to speak to a union.”
Those are good suggestions. And there’s nothing wrong with unions publicly calling on the Tories to stop bad policies.
But the workers’ rights O’Grady spoke about, such as holiday pay, were won by unions taking action. And it will take unions organising action—including strikes—to defend and extend those rights today.
Unfortunately many union leaders gave feeble responses to Johnson’s election, saying he should hold to public spending promises he made during the Tory leadership race.
And there was no official union presence at the 5,000-strong demonstration against Johnson in London last Wednesday.
The Tories are deeply divided over Brexit. Unions should seize on those divisions to drive them out of office. Yet the for many union leaders, the main focus is not kicking out the Tories.
This week the Vauxhall car manufacturer threatened to shut its plant in Elsmere Port, Merseyside, putting hundreds of jobs at risk. The Unite union’s main response was to blame Brexit—and urge Johnson and bosses to work with them to save jobs.
The unions should be arguing for protests, strikes and occupations. But if we only call for union leaders to organise action and then wait, we’ll be waiting for a very long time.
What you do at work matters. Activists should look for every opportunity to take action.
And whenever other workers strike, we should raise solidarity with them. It won’t just help strikers—it will get people talking about walkouts in your workplace.
The key opportunity for organising workers’ action is the global climate strike on Friday 20 September.
Socialists should go into every union and staff meeting arguing for strikes, and try to organise unofficial walkouts on the day.
Inaction by Labour and union leaders has relegated working class people to being spectators to the Tory crisis.
Action on 20 September could mark a break from this.