It is high time we demonstrated our rage against the Tories. The TUC have called a national demo on June 18th. This lying, cheating, corrupt government partied while millions locked down and thousands died. Now they do nothing while energy giants enrich themselves on the back of war in Ukraine.
Hedge fund speculators are driving up the cost of living. And now, when workers are fighting back, the Tories want to legislate against the rail unions in order to keep their gravy train running. So full marks to the union leaders for condemning the latest attack on our fundamental rights. Now it is up to us to build the national demo called by TUC.
As part of Brexit we had been promised a Bill of Rights for workers to replace our EU protections. Instead, the legislation in the Queen’s speech on 9th May was more like a Bill of Wrongs. Trade union disappointment turned to anger when it became clear that in addition to broken promises on employment protection, the government had no plan to protect us against the inflation crisis.
When workers began to take action for themselves, and some of us started winning, the government response was a continuation of decades of attacks on the right of workers to have union protection. So, on Sunday, Transport Minister Grant Schapps announced he intends to introduce legislation to require ‘minimum staffing’ on the railways if rail workers strike. The announcement came as the RMT is balloting its 40,000 members on strike action because of concerns about job security, pay and conditions.
Manuel Cortez, the General Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association said: “What we are seeing here is desperate nonsense from the Tories, who have chosen to attack working people in our union who kept the railways running every day of the pandemic. What the Government should be doing is putting in place measures to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.”
All this comes at a time when the government is planning to gut the rail system with cuts of £3 billion and thousands of job losses.
At the same time, it was reported that the Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, was ‘planning to loosen the grip of trade unions on schools’ by ‘bolstering’ the rights of teachers who choose not to join a trade union’ by allowing non-union members to be accompanied to a grievance or disciplinary hearing by a lawyer or other representative.
The UK has some of the most restrictive trade union laws in the developed world, a claim which has been rejected by the government but which was supported by Full Fact. The attack on unions began in earnest under Margaret Thatcher’s premiership in the early 1980s. Thatcher, who famously described the miners specifically and the labour movement more generally as “the enemy within,” went on to introduce heavy restrictions on the unions.
Downing Street papers from 1983, released under the 30 year rule, show that the true intention was to “neglect no opportunity to erode trade union membership,” in established industries and make sure that, “our new legal structure discourages trade union membership of the new industries.”
The Blair/Brown Labour government of 1997-2010 had every opportunity to repeal the Thatcherite legislation but failed to do so. Thatcher went on to describe Blair as her ‘greatest achievement’.
Join A Union
At a time when we are experiencing a cost-of-living crisis only strong, independent trade unions can protect workers’ rights and standards of living. Critical Mass supports the TUC Demo on June 18th, but we also recognise that it is trade union bureaucrats who have often been the barrier to strike action. Strong, independent trade union organisation can only be effective if it is organised at the grassroots level. The working class cannot rely on politicians or bureaucrats to fight our battles. We have to organise ourselves to defend and extend our rights.
UK railway workers in RMT union vote in favour of strike action across Network Rail and 15 train operating companies.
London Tube strike: RMT announce 24 hour walk out after Jubilee bank holiday.
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I’ve been a socialist and activist since I was a teenager. I’m retired now but still fighting for social, economic, and environmental justice.