THE Tories yesterday announced that as part of the autumn anti-trade union legislation they will be stopping public sector workers automatically paying subscriptions to trade unions through their salaries.
The aim is to cripple trade unions financially so that they cannot pay strike pay. The TUC commented that the government was ‘determined to re-balance power in the workplace, so that workers lose their voice and their rights’.
We have already been told that the anti-union legislation will contain other measures to make all strike action illegal, and therefore, by definition, a revolutionary action. These include a 50% turnout threshold for ballots on industrial action and that 40% of those eligible to vote must back action for strikes in core public services (Health, Education, Transport & Fire Services).
There is to be a strikebreakers’ charter with the removal of restrictions on using temporary workers to break strikes. There will be a need to have repeat ballots to be able to continue with a legal strike action. A named trade union official will be responsible for the conduct of picket lines with picket line ‘intimidation’ of strikebreakers becoming a criminal offence.
These measures sum up the 21st century version of the frenzied anti-trade union legislation of the 19th century, this time aimed at illegalising the mass actions that the Tory slashing of living standards will ignite. The PCS union, one of the main government targets, commented that the plans were ‘unnecessary and vindictive’. It did not call for any action.
Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant general secretary, said: ‘This is another spiteful measure from the Conservatives at a time when working people need unions like never before. It is a crude attempt to starve trade unions of money, money that is then used every day to promote training, workplace safety and hold up decent pay for millions of working people throughout the UK.’
She added: ‘The Conservative Party’s attempt to pose as the party of working people is all the more laughable today than ever.’ Not as laughable as the failure of Unite to call for any action to stop these laws going onto the statute books!
TUC Assistant General Secretary Paul Nowak made a moving plea to the Tories saying: ‘Instead of going out of their way to poison industrial relations, the government should work positively with workers and their representatives for the good of public services and the economy.’ He is living in fairyland!
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, who on June 30th called for a popular uprising against the anti-trade union bill, said: ‘This latest malicious manoeuvre from ministers shows how far they are prepared to go to deny nurses, care workers, teaching assistants, hospital cleaners and town hall staff a voice at work.’
He added, ‘Anyone with a job in the public sector must wonder why the government dislikes them so much that it is set on a series of such spiteful attacks on them through their unions … The government is showing once more that by making it harder for unions in the public sector to stand up for their members, it can never be the party of working people. Attacks on unions are attacks on working people too.’
What happened to his popular uprising! The demagogic Prentis has dropped it in favour of pleading with the Tories and telling workers what they are already well aware of, that the Tories ‘can never be the party of working people’. In fact, as Prentis knows, the Tories have declared class war and are out to destroy the trade unions in order to resolve the worldwide capitalist crisis at the expense of the working class.
He knows that to challenge them seriously a general strike has to be called to remove the Tories and the ruling class from power, and to replace them with a workers’ government and socialism. This Prentis and the Labour bureaucracy are not prepared to do. They would sooner the working class bend the knee!
At its September Congress, the TUC must call a general strike to smash the anti-union laws and bring down the Tories. If the general council will not do it, it must be sacked and replaced with those who will!