TUC must be forced to call a general strike to smash anti-union laws!

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LAST Friday it was announced that Border Force staff at Heathrow Airport had voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a dispute over changes to shift patterns that will result in nearly 250 without a job on passport control.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said that 600 of its members, who carry out immigration controls and passport checks, voted 90% in favour of strike action, adding that strikes could begin as soon as April 8th.

These changes are embedded in a new contract staff are being ordered to sign.

The PCS said: ‘If they refuse to accept the new contracts they would be forced to seek jobs elsewhere in the Home Office.’

This ballot takes on a huge significance for the PCS and for the entire trade union movement.

Border Force staff are named in the Tory ‘Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) act’ along with five other key public services, and these new contracts are being forced through by the Home Office.

While employers in other key sectors identified by the Tory anti-strike law (like rail transport) have been reluctant to use these laws, the government Home Office will certainly be enforcing the legal right to force workers to cross picket lines to break industrial action or face instant dismissal.

PCS general secretary Fran Heathcote said: ‘PCS is currently challenging the government’s Minimum Service Levels legislation in the courts,’ adding: ‘We will vigorously defend our members’ right to strike if ministers try to impose a work notice.’

Heathcote, speaking at the Northern Region of the TUC, said that PCS members at Border Force immigration controls were almost certain to face the anti-strike laws and that the trade union movement faces a ‘pivotal moment’ in its history.

The confrontation between the unions and the Tory government cannot be avoided despite all the best efforts of the TUC to try to divert the crucial issue of fighting the anti-strike laws down the dead end of legal challenges and protests.

This month, the PCS launched a strike ballot of nearly 150,000 of its members across the UK Civil Service in support of its national campaign for decent pay, pensions justice and job protection, making the collision between the PCS and the Tories inevitable.

This coming pivotal moment is causing ructions within the Labour Party leadership, who have adopted the policy of attempting to keep the trade unions onside by promising a Labour government would repeal the anti-strike laws and strengthen workers’ rights.

Like all other pledges from the Starmer leadership, these promises are worthless.

Speaking at a meeting with leading bankers and industrialists last week, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves was desperate to assure them that Labour would ‘work with business as we deliver and implement’ plans on trade union legislation reform.

This pledge to only repeal Tory anti-union laws if the bosses and bankers give their approval was underlined by Peter Mandelson – the architect of ‘New Labour’ along with Tony Blair – who now acts as the unofficial ‘guiding advisor’ to Keir Starmer.

Mandelson wrote this weekend that: ‘There is a clear case for reform but the case needs to be tested, priorities established and the complexities thoroughly addressed’ adding: ‘This must not be rushed but it must be done in consultation with business.’

Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham responded to Mandelson’s article, saying: ‘His constant attacks on workers’ rights seem to be driven by his personal financial interests as well as his outdated desire to see Labour reduced to a 1990s neoliberal tribute act.’

This avoids the real issue, namely that the crisis of British capitalism demands that the ruling class wage a class war to the finish to impose savage austerity and poverty onto the backs of the working class – something that the Labour leadership and Tories are in complete agreement on.

The working class has shown that it will not be driven into the gutter to save bankrupt capitalism and are prepared to defy all the anti-strike laws and take on the Tories.

This is indeed the pivotal moment for the trade unions to take decisive action by forcing the TUC to immediately call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in workers’ government and socialism.

This is the way forward.