It’s a very welcome demand from this annual assembly of union general secretaries, senior officials and some grassroots delegates.
The Minimum Service Levels Act (MSL) passed into law in July. Once a few final details are completed, employers in fire and rescue, health, education, transport, nuclear decommissioning, and other areas will be able to demand that named workers scab on strike days. It’s pro-boss legislation designed to gut the right to strike.
The motion passed at the conference in Liverpool on Monday stated, “We have no choice but to build mass opposition to the MSLs laws, up to and including a strategy of non-compliance and non‑cooperation to make them unworkable, including industrial action.”
It passed overwhelmingly. FBU union general secretary Matt Wrack, said, “Passing this motion today is a message of defiance. The TUC is now committed to a policy of resistance to the Minimum Service Levels Act, up to and including non-compliance. The trade union movement has defied anti‑strike laws in the past and won, and it must be prepared to do so again.”
“We welcome the pledge from Labour that they will repeal this within 100 days of taking office, but we need to demand of Labour that there is no backsliding.
“The strongest message we can send is to say we will smash and defeat this legislation, and not allow it to be introduced.”
Wrack is right that strikes have destroyed anti-union laws previously. But not for half a century. Repeatedly after that, unions produced brave words, but precious little action. There are already warnings.
One union figure told the Financial Times newspaper that last week during a meeting of the TUC’s general council, its governing body, some officials were worried about negative headlines in right wing newspapers. “They didn’t want headlines in the Daily Mail saying ‘unions plan to break the law’,” he said. Another union leader said privately that it was not realistic for unions to call for non-compliance.
But that they could envisage a scenario in which the minimum service legislation led to workers being dismissed and other union members taking “spontaneous” action in response. The campaign from the TUC and its member unions in the run-up to this latest law going through was very weak.
So it is critical for trade unionists to demand there can be no backsliding by general secretaries as well as Labour. This should be just the start of forcing a Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer government to remove all the anti-union laws.
Earlier TUC general secretary Paul Nowak delivered a strong speech against attacks on migrants. He said, “The real enemies of the working class don’t arrive in a small boat, they fly in by private jet.
“Every migrant is my sister, my brother, and this government shames us all because our country should never turn its back on those fleeing persecution, poverty or war,” he said.
But Nowak did not mention Keir Starmer’s repeated attacks on migrants. After Socialist Worker went to press the TUC was set to hear a motion on the Ukraine war.
Although it rightly condemns the Russian invasion, it does not have the slightest criticism of the British government and Nato. It would be a big step forward if it was defeated.
Overall the TUC has shied away from an honest assessment of the last year of strikes.
For the chance of a real assessment, trade unionists should head to the Workers’ Summit on 23 September. To book go to bit.ly/WS230923 To add your union branch to the supporting organisations, or for a model motion, contact [email protected]
Would you have dinner with Keir Starmer? He turned up at the TUC on Monday evening for the traditional troughing with general secretaries. Sharon Graham from the Unite union wasn’t there. But Mick Lynch of the RMT was. His union isn’t even affiliated to Labour.
Lynch’s predecessor in the RMT, Bob Crow always boycotted the gala dinner, declaring that he was “going down the pub” instead. Starmer didn’t speak to the TUC delegates. It was deputy leader Angela Rayner’s turn.
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An example to other workers
The Israeli state kidnaps Palestinians—including children