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Firefighters’ leader calls on unions to defy Tories’ new anti-union law

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The Minimum service level bill will give bosses power to sack striking workers and sue unions
Issue 2848
FBU union leader Matt Wrack talking at a rally illustrating an article about defying the Tories anti-union law

FBU union leader Matt Wrack (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Firefighters’ FBU union leader Matt Wrack has called for a campaign to defy the new anti-union laws. He said unions should mount “mass non-cooperation and non-compliance” with the Minimum Service Levels Bill currently going through parliament.

The law would force workers to scab on their own strikes. It threatens trade unionists with the sack if they don’t follow bosses’ demands for continued services during a walkout. And they would hit unions with fines for resistance.

The areas initially hit would be health, fire and rescue, education, transport, decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste. That’s millions of workers, and most of those who have been involved in recent major strikes.

It’s welcome that Wrack is talking about going beyond the petitioning, appeals to MPs and the House of Lords and polite demonstrations that have taken place so far. The FBU said the TUC union federation should convene an emergency conference to launch a campaign of defiance and civil disobedience against the bill if it becomes law.

Wrack said, “A mass movement of non-compliance can defeat this attack on working people by making the legislation unworkable. The TUC can lead this movement of resistance, first by calling an emergency congress, followed by a national demonstration and a sustained campaign of non-cooperation.

“The government is attempting to ban effective strikes, and giving employers the power to sack workers who do not comply with this legislation. However, a unified strategy of mass resistance can make this law inoperable and stop it dead in its tracks.”

He added, “The Minimum Services Level Bill is one of the most draconian attacks on the rights of working people in decades. It’s a pernicious piece of legislation that’s in keeping with authoritarian regimes around the world.

“The government is deliberately attempting to strengthen the position of employers and severely weaken the position of workers. They are doing this for one purpose—to drive down wages.

“Ministers are bulldozing this anti-worker legislation through parliament, and riding roughshod over the democratic process by seeking to avoid scrutiny.”

The FBU is unlikely to be an early target of the laws as it has recently accepted a below-inflation pay deal.

Union leaders should pledge and campaign now that whichever group is first affected should refuse to obey the law. And that other unions will actively support them—even if that action is deemed illegal. 

The way to defeat the bill is through mass strikes and resistance, as was done when anti-union laws were defeated in the 1970s. We need that method again.

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