By Raymie Kiernan
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2478

Unions protest at Tory Trade Union Bill —now launch a real fight

This article is over 6 years, 2 months old
Issue 2478
Workers protesting against the Trade Union Bill outside the TUC rally
Workers protesting against the Trade Union Bill outside the TUC rally (Pic: Dave Gilchrist)

Thousands of trade unionists protested at Westminster on Monday of this week against the Tories’ Trade Union Bill.

The bill aims to clamp down on opposition to the massive cuts the Tories still want to make.

It would see strike ballots overturned, new blacklists and arbitrary fines, among other attacks. The bill faces its third reading in parliament on Tuesday of next week.

It is all designed to ensure that union leaders fear the law and police their members.

The TUC had called a mass lobby of MPs. Its general secretary Frances O’Grady said the mobilisation “was all about pressuring MPs, ministers and lords”.

The TUC called no protests, though up to 2,000 people joined its indoor lunchtime rally with hundreds more outside. It was left to others to provide a focus for action.

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) delegations gathered for a short march to the rally.

They cheered striking Unison union members from Barnet, north London (see page 19), who joined the march chanting, “We hate Tories”.

Around 250 people joined an evening protest called by the Trade Union Coordinating Group of mostly smaller, more left wing unions.

West Yorkshire FBU secretary Paul Drinkwater was disappointed at the turnout across the day. “The danger if we don’t do anything is the watering down of the strength of the trade unions,” he told Socialist Worker.

Others reflected the same frustration with union leaders pleading with Tories rather than leading a real fightback.


Austerity and privatisation are already devastating services.

A library worker from Ealing, in west London, told Socialist Worker about the impact of new private bosses cutting jobs.

“We’re not sure there’ll be enough cover next year for people to take their annual leave,” they added.

Despite fighting talk, most union leaders plan to adapt to new laws.

But struggle can get results.

Bromley Unite union rep Gill Slater said the south London Tory council is ramming through privatisation.

“Those that fought have achieved a better settlement when services are outsourced than those who didn’t,” she said.

“The lesson is to strike because it is effective—that’s why the Tories are attacking the right to strike.”

The focus will soon be on what happens when the bill becomes law.

National Gallery PCS union rep Candy Udwin argued to a rally, “We have to make this bill unworkable.”

If the TUC won’t call action, responsibility lies with those who want to fight.

Monday’s turnout hinted at what is possible when unions lift a little finger. Imagine what a real fightback could look like.

Build networks to resist

Building the networks needed to launch resistance to the Tories is a priority for every trade unionist.

The Trade Union Bill’s third reading on Tuesday of next week is an opportunity to protest.

Another key date is Saturday 14 November at the Unite the Resistance conference in London.

There will be practical workshops focusing on how we develop these networks to campaign against the bill as well as sessions on cuts, refugee rights, organising at work, and more.

Junior doctor Yannis Gourtsoyannis is speaking at the NHS workshop.

He said, “I want to get together and unite with the other unions in health service. They need to get stuck in to the fight because it matters for the dispute.”

The Unite union health branch in Bristol is sending a delegation.

Rep Chrissie Gardner said, “The Tories are attacking working class organisation because they see it as a threat.

“That’s why we’re coming to the conference. We have everything to lose—and everything to fight for.”

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