THE EMERGENCY anti-union regulations, passed in the House of Commons by 289 votes to 202 on Monday night, are set to be used to break strikes, and to break the strike movement that has erupted as wages are slashed by galloping inflation.
Rail, bus, air transport, post office and NHS workers are among the targets for the use of agency strike breakers, with strike actions due to stop Britain’s railways, courts and post offices.
Unions warned of a ‘shameless attack’ on working-class people yesterday and slammed the government’s ‘scab charter,’ allowing agency workers to break strikes.
The TUC condemned the legislation as ‘pernicious anti-union measures,’ and said the legislation threatens public safety and will worsen industrial disputes. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty – the government is attacking it in broad daylight.
‘Hiring agency workers to break strikes would put these workers in an appalling position, worsen disputes and poison industrial relations. And public safety could be put at risk by bringing in agency staff who haven’t been fully trained to deliver specific roles.
‘Limiting workers’ ability to bargain for higher wages is the cowardly and desperate last act of a government in chaos – especially while millions struggle to make ends meet.’
The bosses and their politicians will ignore the pleas of the TUC and will proceed with their efforts to make trade unionism illegal.
The RMT, which held three days of national strike action across the rail network last month, warned the move is the ‘latest step in a clampdown on democratic dissent which every trade unionist and democrat must oppose.’
General secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘The use of agency labour to break strikes is not only unethical and morally reprehensible; it is totally impracticable. Instead of trying to reduce union rights, which are already the worst in western Europe, the government should be unshackling Network Rail and the train operating companies so we can secure a negotiated settlement on the railways.’
A Labour motion to annul regulations increasing the level of damages a court can award in the case of unlawful strike action from £250,000 to £1 million was also defeated, by 290 votes to 201.
ASLEF, the train drivers’ trade union, which on Monday announced that an overwhelming majority of its members working in eight train companies had voted to strike in a dispute over pay, has slammed the government’s ‘petty’ decision to introduce a ‘scab’s charter’ in Britain. MPs voted 289 to 202, a majority of 87, in favour of the regulations.
‘Strikes are always a last resort,’ said Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF. ‘This is the government that allowed P&O to get away with firing 800 loyal British workers and bring in agency workers from abroad on £5.50. How does that fit with ( the) promise to level up? Or to provide good, well-paid, jobs? What the government doesn’t seem to understand is that there aren’t any agency workers who can drive trains, anyway!’
Network Rail has now made a new pay offer which the RMT called a ‘real-terms pay cut’. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch responded to the offer by saying: ‘We will not hesitate to call further strike action and co-ordinate this with other trade unions if the industry continues to fob us off with unacceptable offers.’
Lynch said in a message to members on Tuesday: ‘It amounts to a real-terms pay cut for members over the next two years and would cut a third of all frontline maintenance roles and half of all scheduled maintenance work.’
He told members: ‘Network Rail has offered high level managers a huge hike in salary in return for very modest flexibility compared to what you and your colleagues have been offered.
‘All companies involved in this dispute need to understand that key railway workers have lost thousands of pounds in earnings due to a pay freeze in recent years – and rightly, you refuse to be short-changed again.
‘Settlements reached with London Underground and recently Merseyrail are also well in excess of what you have been offered here. We will not hesitate to call further strike action and co-ordinate this with other trade unions if the industry continues to fob us off with unacceptable offers.’
The scene has now been set for a major battle beween the Tory government and the trade unions.
Last June 18th the TUC organised a 100,000-strong march in support of the railworkers. It refused to make it the first day of a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government.
The rail unions will shortly be in battle against Tory government-backed strike breakers.
The TUC must be made to follow the example of the Sri Lankan workers and bring down this vicious anti-working class Tory regime with a general strike to go forward to a workers government and socialism.