Around 150 trade unionists resolved to take on the Tories’ repressive police bill at a meeting on Thursday night.
The meeting discussed a day of action on Saturday 1 May, international workers’ day.
The police bill is a direct threat to the trade union movement—and it must start mobilising against it. Employment lawyer John Hendy QC told the meeting that “trade union organised marches and demonstrations are a key element in the trade union tool box”.
“This bill and further powers for the police to limit pickets, demonstrations and marches is an extreme concern to trade unions,” he explained.
“They may find their ability to protect the conditions of working life are significantly diminished.”
Any boss could seize on the clause criminalising protests that cause “serious annoyance” to clamp down on workers’ picket lines.
Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy pointed to the Shrewsbury 24 case, trade unionists who had picketed during the 1972 building workers’ strike. The Court of Appeal was forced to overturn their convictions last month after 50 years of injustice.
“The vindication of the Shrewsbury pickets shows the state and establishment abusing powers even before this authoritarian piece of legislation,” said Ribeiro-Addy.
“What happened at Clapham was really horrific, and what we’ve seen since then in places such as Bristol is totally unacceptable. But none of it should come as a surprise because it’s all part of this disturbing, authoritarian drive.”
The meeting was chaired by nurse Karen Reissmann who was fined £10,000 for organising a pay protest in Manchester in March and CWU union president Jane Loftus.
York university law lecturer Joanna Gilmore argued, “Our response has to be one of unity, solidarity and action.
“Just as we defend the right to strike by going out on strike, we need to defend the right to protest by protesting.”
NEU education union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney urged “everyone on this call to get involved in this campaign”. “Trade unions in our country face some of the most significant anti-union laws in the developed world,” he said.
“Now they want to load even further restrictions on our right to protest.”
Courtney asked, “Does your trade union branch want to organise a protest that has some impact?
“This bill affects you if you want to have impact. This is a huge step in the wrong direction for our country. It’s right to resist it.”
Ameen Hadi from Stand Up to Racism pointed to the guilty verdict of US cop Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. “What did it take to get the US justice system to do the right thing?” he asked.
“It took mass protests across the world. Home secretary Priti Patel called this movement dreadful. She is presiding over one of most racist governments we’ve ever had.
“We need to make sure we’re on the streets actively opposing this bill—and join the protests on 1 May.”
During the discussion a member of the York Unison union branch added that climate change must be a “key trade union issue”. “If climate strikes, protests and events are banned then the voices that need to be heard will find it much more difficult,” she said.
And one Unison member in Birmingham said “it was as shame there was no trade union presence in Birmingham” on the Kill the Bill day of action last weekend.
Another stressed the importance of trade unions linking with young people. “Many young people don’t understand trade unions,” they said. “We need to show we’re on their side to beat the bill and make unions relevant to young people—they’re the activists of the future.”
Trade unionists have to be out on the streets with union delegations and banners—and take the radicalism of the Kill The Bill movement into their workplaces.