IN ADVANCE of last night’s vote in parliament on the Tory bill waging war on the right to strike by allowing employers to bring in ‘agency’ scabs to break strikes, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) issued a grovelling appeal to MPs to reject ‘pernicious anti-union measures’ that threaten public safety.
The bill was pushed by the Boris Johnson administration in its dying days as a response to the national strike action called on the railways by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and removes the current laws that prevent employers from using agency staff as strike breakers.
Alongside removing legal restrictions, the legislation proposes quadrupling financial penalties for any union carrying out strikes ‘unlawfully’, increasing fines on them from £250,000 to £1 million.
In their appeal to MPs to vote down these strike-breaking laws, the TUC complained that there had been no consultation with the unions, with TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady saying: ‘MPs must waste no time and vote down this brazen attack on workers, which is the desperate last gasp of a government in turmoil. These pernicious new laws will make it harder for workers to defend their jobs, pay and conditions at a time when millions are struggling to make ends meet.’
That of course is exactly what the Tories intend. She went on: ‘The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty. The government wants to undermine the right and deploy agency workers as strike breakers across the economy – including the railways.’
O’Grady concluded: ‘Ministers should help to de-escalate industrial disputes, but instead they are spoiling for a fight to distract from their many failings.’
The TUC has made it clear that it will do nothing except appeal to MPs to defend the right to strike and call on Tory ministers to ‘de-escalate’ industrial disputes.
When the legislation was first proposed late last month, it was dismissed in the press as a ‘piece of political theatre’ designed to show that the Tories were prepared to stand up and defeat the unions they accused of ‘holding the country to ransom.’
In fact, this legislation is much more than posturing by the Tories. It is a declaration that the Tories, under whoever they choose to lead them, are preparing the legal grounds for a massive strike-breaking operation, along with all the legislation to declare the right to strike itself illegal.
It reflects the absolute requirements of a British capitalist system facing a working class that is massively rising up across the country demanding pay increases to match the sky-rocketing cost of living increases, and refusing to be driven into the gutter of poverty.
The right to strike was not gifted to the working class by a benevolent capitalist system, it was won in historic struggles that saw workers organising unions under conditions of illegality in the 19th century.
The right to strike will never be defended in parliament – certainly not by the Labour Party.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has openly sided with the bosses against workers taking strike action over pay. In Coventry, a Labour council – with the support of the Labour leadership – has spent over £3 million on scab agency staff to try to break a strike by HGV bin drivers over pay.
Starmer threatened to discipline shadow Labour ministers who dared express support for the RMT strike by attending picket lines.
The Labour Party has lined up with the Tories to attempt to smash the fast-developing strike movement, and defend this bankrupt capitalist system from the anger of workers.
The TUC must not be allowed to carry on with appealing to Tory and Labour MPs to defend the right of workers to fight, while refusing to take any action.
The demand must be that this attack on the right to strike is met by the TUC calling an immediate general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government and socialism.
Those TUC leaders who refuse to lead this fight must be thrown out and replaced by a new leadership prepared to lead this struggle for the socialist revolution.
Only the WRP is building the leadership required – join today.