STRIKING unions are to be gagged as well as chained, the TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady has said, referring to a consultation document linked to the proposed Trade Union Bill. This suggests unions involved in industrial action should give two weeks notice if they plan to campaign via social media.
O’Grady rightly observed that an attack on trade unions was ‘unfinished business’ for ‘some elements within governments’. However it is not just a question of some Tory elements but the desire of the UK ruling class to be rid of trade unions that is as strong now, if not stronger, than it was at the time of the Combination Acts.
Ministers have said that any restrictions would not apply to posts by individuals, but to trade unions as the basic organisations of the working class. The consultation document states that unions taking industrial action must give notice of ‘whether it will be using social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter, blogs, setting up websites and what those blogs and websites will set out’.
The outline of the Trade Union Bill was published last month – including proposals for a minimum 50% turnout in any strike ballot, that a 40% barrier has to be reached for any votes to take strike action to be legal, and that strike breaking will be legal while active opposition to strikebreakers is to be a criminal offence.
Instinctively the reaction of the TUC leader O’Grady is not to mobilise the movement for battle but to look around for some Tories to ally with and plead to. The government is more than happy to oblige in this respect and lo and behold ‘The Regulatory Policy Committee – an independent body appointed by the government which verifies the costs and savings of proposed changes to businesses and civil society’ – has emerged to describe the government’s trade union proposals as ‘not fit for purpose’.
The TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady’s immediate reaction to this group is to swallow the bait, hook, line and sinker. She states: ‘We’re pleased that the Regulatory Policy Committee has exposed the lack of consultation and the unfair imposition of excessive red tape on unions and employers. ‘This is an opportunity for the government to take a step back, recognise that they were wrong, and drop these proposals which threaten the democratic right to strike.’
She has immediately gone into forelock touching pleading mode. Instead of calling a general strike, the plan is to march to the Tory party conference so that they can plead for mercy outside it, and in person urge the government to withdraw its anti-union laws.
The TUC Congress meets in September. Workers who are already demanding that the TUC stop pleading with the Tories and mobilise the whole movement for action must veto the march to the Tory Party conference and instead march on the TUC Congress. Ten or 20,000 workers outside the TUC Congress will change the situation entirely and create the conditions, especially if the lobbyists have a good representation inside the hall, to make the TUC call a general strike, even if it takes forcing the entire TUC general council to quit, replacing it with a provisional general council whose first action will be to name the date for the general strike.
The working class is the strongest class in society but its leadership has feet of clay. At last year’s TUC Congress the general council was able to bin the resolution that ordered the TUC to study the practicalities for calling a general strike against the government. This cowardly retreat created the situation where the Tories could bring forward their new laws to bind and then gag the entire trade union movement!
The working class must put a stop to the perfidy of the TUC general council. There must be a mass turn-out at the lobby of the TUC in Brighton on Sunday September 13th at 1pm. The TUC General Council must be told to call the general strike or quit on the spot and make way for those leaders that will. This is the way forward!