LAST Sunday fifty Tory MPs demanded the government bring in even more draconian laws aimed at breaking the growing strike movement that is gaining in momentum across the country.
They called for new anti-union laws to completely ban strikes in ‘critical infrastructure’ such as train and bus services unless a high court judge rules that any strike is both ‘proportionate and reasonable’.
Even if a strike is permitted, these Tory MPs want the unions to have a legal requirement to run ‘skeleton services’ on strike days. This demand for new legislation to go much further than existing anti-union laws, which demand 50% turnout and over 40% voting in favour of strike action, is the latest move by the Tories to make all strikes illegal and is a clear sign of the desperation felt by the Tories over the rising strike wave hitting Britain.
It follows a warning last December from May that the current legislation was ‘continually under review’ to make sure it was doing its job in stopping strikes and that ‘nothing will be ruled out’ including the call by one Tory MP for all strikes on safety grounds, like those of the railworkers and junior doctors, should be made illegal.
Tory Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, is ‘spoiling for a fight’ with the rail unions and has strongly hinted that he is willing to table new laws to outlaw strikes completely. This drew a defiant response from RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley, who said: ‘The difference between workers and those in enslavement is the right to withdraw labour. If the government attempts to ban strikes, then we must defy the law and take action anyway.’
Hedley repeated the determination of the RMT to defy any attempt to ban strikes when he responded to the Tory MPs latest demand saying that tougher laws were ‘not going to happen’ and that: ‘If they try to bring something like that in we’ll just break the law. The trade union movement was founded by people breaking unjust laws.’
Where Hedley errs is in assuming that new laws are not going to happen. British capitalism is in a desperate economic crisis facing a collapsing pound, a manufacturing base that has been all but wiped out and with a working class that is determined not to be driven into the gutter by austerity cuts that have seen their living standards slashed since the crash of the capitalist banking system in 2008.
This crisis is dictating that this weak, divided Tory government wage war on the working class. In the face of this rising tide of anger expressed by the present strike wave, they are being forced to move towards emergency laws to smash the trade unions and put an end to the right to strike.
This right 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 and it can only be defended today in a fight to bring down the Tories.
The Tories and the ruling class are terrified by the developing strike movement and seeing in it the beginnings of a revolutionary upsurge of millions of people who refuse to see their lives shattered along with all the gains of the welfare state and NHS.
They are relying not on any strength from the government but from the treacherous leadership of the TUC which refused to call any action or even a demonstration against the existing anti-union laws and can be relied on to do the same in the face of the latest proposed attack.
Workers cannot wait for any new laws to be brought in or for any section of the working class to be forced to fight alone against this legal onslaught. The demand must be that any attack on the right to strike is met by the TUC calling an immediate general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government and socialism.
Those TUC leaders who refuse to lead this fight must be thrown out and replaced by a new revolutionary leadership that is prepared to lead this struggle for the socialist revolution.