YESTERDAY the junior doctors took the first day of their three days of strike action, and shook the Tory regime to its core with a massive turn-out, big picket lines, and with other trade unionists joining the pickets to show their support for the struggle to defend the NHS and the Welfare State.
What a contrast there is between the exemplary conduct of the health service workers and the TUC General Council which could not even mount a lobby, never mind a demonstration or a strike, as the House of Lords met on Monday night to send the anti-trade union Bill forward to become law, without even Labour forcing a division at its second reading.
There was no real opposition from the Labour ranks to the Tory measure, while the TUC made sure there were not thousands of workers outside parliament when the deed was done.
This anti-union Bill is one of the greatest assaults on the trade unions in the UK since the Combination Acts! The TUC, however, has refused to even lift a finger to try to defeat it. At their September Congress they dumped even the motions that wanted to keep the general strike on the agenda and instead went down on their knees.
Unite’s McCluskey was over the moon about the prospect that alleged Tory radicals, such as Dave Davis, would get the Bill amended so that it would be acceptable to the TUC. McCluskey and the the TUC general secretary O’Grady let it be known that the Bill would be acceptable if it OK’d electronic voting. The TUC would then help the Tories slip the handcuffs on the working class.
This why the TUC did not even mount a small demo or lobby of the House of Lords on Monday night when the second reading of the Bill took place. Since the Labourites were not going to force the issue to a vote, the TUC did not want to have thousands of workers outside! So the Bill went through and will soon be law!
However, the TUC did have a presence inside the House of Lords – ex TUC leader Monks, now a noble Lord Monks, was there, and he played his part in the proceedings. In fact, he put the TUC line!
He described the legislation as ‘a mortal threat to some unions’ which ‘offends our pluralistic democracy’ and said: ‘It rides roughshod over this country’s obligations to the International Labour Organisation regarding the rights of unions, and it wilfully breaches similar obligations under European and human rights laws.’
He added: ‘Take the proposed thresholds on industrial action . . . the government would not have been elected if similar thresholds were applied to the Westminster elections – or the embarrassingly low turnout for the elections of police commissioners.’
He however continued: ‘I do not like the proposed thresholds in principle, but if they were linked to independently-supervised electronic and workplace ballots, maybe a way forward begins to open up.’
Quite! The TUC and Labour allowed the Bill through without a challenge because they hope that if they crawl low enough, the Tories will allow in electronic voting and ‘maybe a way forward begins to open up’ for them to accept the Tory anti-union laws!
This is what they are working for. This is why the New Year message of the TUC leader O’Grady saluted the economic progress that the Tories are alleged to have made, but did not even mention the struggle of the junior doctors or even the anti-union laws – despite the fact that the latter are directly ahead.
This present general council of the TUC can only organise defeats and betrayals. It is a huge weight around the necks of the working class. Trade unionists must begin a great campaign that all TUC trade unions must come out alongside the junior doctors and that on the day if the third strike, on February 10th, the TUC must organise a giant march on parliament to force the Tories to resign and make way for a workers government.
This is the way forward. Now is the time to build a new revolutionary leadership in the trade unions. Now is the time to join the WRP and the Young Socialists to organise to put an end to capitalism and to go forward to socialism!