TODAY’S Queen’s speech includes plans by the Tories to make all-out strikes by rail unions and other transport workers illegal.
Tory transport secretary Grant Shapps announced beforehand that the laws would force workers on rail and buses to run services during any strikes – in effect, a law forcing workers to break their own strike.
Railworkers’ unions RMT and Aslef are joining in a demonstration outside Parliament by Unite and the public sector PCS union against these laws.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘It hasn’t taken long for the true colours of this new Tory government to emerge. Banning strikes and denying workers the basic human right to withdraw their labour has been the hallmark of hard right, authoritarian regimes throughout history.’
He added: ‘RMT will fight any plans to deny our members their basic human rights.’
Train drivers’ union Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘This is nothing less than a declaration of war on transport workers,’ adding: ‘If the Transport Secretary and this nasty Tory government want to start a war with rail staff, our members are more than prepared to fight it and win.’
It is not just a declaration of war against rail workers, it is a declaration of war against the entire working class, a war to destroy trade unions by using the courts to outlaw the most basic right won by workers – the right to withdraw their labour.
In making strikes illegal by rendering them totally ineffective, the Tories want to leave every worker in the country defenceless in the face of every attack by the employers and the government.
Every Tory government since Thatcher in the 1980s has brought in legislation to make it as impossible as they can for unions to call ‘legal’ strikes.
In the last round of anti-union laws, they forced unions to achieve not just a majority in favour but demanded that over 50% of the entire workforce actually voted – a requirement that, if applied to general elections, would mean not a single MP would be elected.
Such is the anger of workers to all the attacks on wages and conditions that unions like the postal workers’ CWU in their recent ballot for industrial action recorded a massive 97% vote in favour – in an over 75% turnout.
This didn’t prevent Royal Mail from running to the courts however, where a judge took just minutes to rule the entire ballot illegal on completely spurious grounds.
Now this new Tory government is prepared to go all-out and make strikes in public transport illegal and this will soon be followed by illegalising strike action in all public services.
In the case of the private sector, like the now privatised Royal Mail, the capitalist courts will intervene on one pretext or another to declare a strike ballot illegal. The right of workers to strike is fundamental to the very existence of trade unions and it must be defended by the entire trade union movement.
The driving force behind this war on the unions is the desperate economic crisis of capitalism that has resulted in unprecedented attacks on workers’ pay and conditions since the crash of the capitalist banking system in 2008.
Facing a working class that is not just defiant but determined not to be driven into the gutter by austerity cuts, the Tories are desperate to smash the unions and end the right to strike in order to inflict even more savage cuts to dump the crisis on the backs of workers.
The Tories are terrified of the strike movement sweeping the country, correctly seeing in it a revolutionary upsurge of millions of people against a bankrupt capitalist system.
RMT, Aslef, Unite and PCS unions must take decisive action by uniting with the CWU in demanding that the entire trade union movement defend the basic democratic right of workers to strike by calling a general strike to bring down the Tory government and go forward to a workers government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers and put an end to bankrupt capitalism by advancing to socialism.