THE Government took another step towards passing its latest anti-strike legislation with a comfortable majority in the Commons on Monday night. The law is being rushed through. It has very few specific clauses but gives ministers the power to introduce these as statutory instruments. In effect the Government is saying, “We are passing a law to guarantee minimum levels of service during public sector strikes. But we haven’t worked out the details yet. We will tell you what they are after the law is passed.”
They are in such a rush that they have failed to consult the International Labour Organisation, a unique tripartite UN agency that brings Governments, Unions and Employers together to set standards for Labour relations. The main aims of the ILO are
to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.ILO Website
As a result, the law will probably be in breach of international conventions on human rights and be challenged in the courts. But the Government doesn’t care. The proposed law is a declaration of intent to make strikes more difficult and allow employers to sue trade unions and sack workers who exercise their democratic right to strike.
Every previous anti-union law has been met with fighting talk from the unions and vague promises from Labour to repeal it. The fighting talk has rarely been translated into action and, when it has, this has been down to rank and file workers taking matters into their own hands and forcing the hand of the union leaders, as happened when striking dockworkers were jailed in 1972.
Labour promises are not to be trusted. The last Labour Government did not repeal a single clause of anti-union law. Sir Keir Starmer will be no different.
But all is not lost. Polls this week suggest that support for unions is growing and they are more popular than the Government. 30,000 teachers chose to join the NEU after it voted for the strike action that commences today.
The new laws will have no effect on the outcome of the current round of trade union struggles over pay and conditions. Public support is holding firm and union membership is growing. The best way to beat the Tory laws is to push for victory in today’s strikes and build the links at grassroots level that will give us the strength to defend ourselves in the future. They cannot sack us all.
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