DELEGATES to the TUC conference in Liverpool spoke out in favour of a general strike to defeat the Tory Strikes Minimum Service Levels legislation yesterday morning.
The Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists lobby of the conference kept up a constant chant of ‘Smash the anti-union laws – call a general strike!’ and ‘Smash the anti-union laws – kick the Tories out!’
On his way into the conference centre, PCS civil servants union General Secretary Mark Serwotka told News Line: ‘I’m always in favour of maximum coordination of trade union action, as you know. This Strikes Minimum Service Levels bill has got to be defeated.’
Prison Officers Association (POA) General Secretary Steve Gillan told News Line: ‘We moved a resolution calling for exploring the possibility of a General Strike back in 2012. It is even more necessary today.
‘Unions must coordinate action to defeat the Strikes Minimum Service Levels law.’
Tricia James, Unite Reading, said: ‘We need a general strike to defeat the anti-union laws and kick the Tories out.
‘We also have to support the doctors’ strike.
‘If they use this law against striking doctors or railway workers there will have to be an immediate general strike’.
Stephen Caulding, Unite Tameside, said: ‘The anti-union laws have to be smashed and a general strike is the way to do it.’
Omolayo Obadina, GMB union London Region said: ‘The Tories are trying to take our power away. To sack people for striking is an attack on fundamental human rights.
‘The TUC can and should call a general strike to defeat them.’
Maggie Ryan, Unite West Midlands, said: ‘Our union wants all the anti-union laws repealed. ‘There’s a great appetite on the left for a general strike.’
Liam Courley, shopworkers’ union USDAW Widnes, said: ‘A general strike is the only way to get anything done. The anti-union laws cannot be allowed, they must be defeated.
‘I work in a supermarket and we all want to strike.’
Pat Roche, UCU Blackpool, said: ‘United we can win, we can have lots of strikes, here there and everywhere, but it’s only together that we can win.’
Liz Spring, Unite Wythenshawe, said: The fact that they can fine a union for causing the employer losses, takes us back over 100 years. They want to go back to the 17th and 18th centuries. That’s why we need a general strike.’
Krzysztof Adamek from USDAW, Norfolk said: ‘Everyone has the right to strike. Our members are often on £12 an hour so there must be a right to strike, and the way to defend it is a general strike.’
David John from Equity said: ‘The anti-union laws have to be defeated and a general strike is the way to do it.’
And Zita Holbourne from the AUE artists union told News Line: ‘We have to have a collective response to the anti-union laws.’
Rosalind Morcombe, Unite, Ireland, said: ‘We’re going to have to have a general strike.
‘We’ve got to have the right to strike. The Tories are trying to impose a dictatorship and they must be beaten, and we have to support the doctors.
‘We stood on the doorsteps and clapped them during Covid and told them they were wonderful, but today they are being slapped down.
‘They hold your life in their hands. If we didn’t have the NHS we wouldn’t have anything.’
Syed Hadi Naqri, USDAW Southern Region, said: ‘I think a lot of the unions are now leaning towards a general strike.
‘We in USDAW like to work hand-in-hand with other unions, and a general strike to defeat the anti-union laws is certainly the main issue today.’
TUC Congress delegates yesterday voted unanimously for Composite Motion 16 Working hours and burnout, which stated:
‘Conference recognises the pressing issue of employee burnout in the workplace and the detrimental impact it has on workers’ well-being and productivity.’
‘According to the most recent NHS staff survey, only a quarter of the NHS workforce say there are enough staff to do their jobs properly and a third feel burnt out.’
Nowak refuses to call for a general strike
IN his keynote speech to Congress 2023, TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak declared: ‘We’ll fight this new law on the picket line!
He began by making much of being a descendant of immigrants: ‘I am proud to be the grandson of immigrants, proud of my family, and proud of the contribution that they and millions like them have made to this country.
‘So, when I hear the Home Secretary talking of a “migrant invasion”, that her dream is to deport people to Rwanda, when I see immigrants housed on a barge with legionella, or hear that the Immigration Minister ordered a mural for kids painted over, for me, it’s personal.
‘Because the real enemies of the working class don’t arrive in a small boat, they fly in by private jet!’
He stressed: ‘Every migrant is my sister, my brother.
‘And this government shames us all. Because our country should never turn its back on those fleeing persecution, poverty or war.’
He went on: ‘The Conservatives have broken Britain.
‘They’ve had 13 years to sort out crumbling concrete in our schools.
‘But five days before the new term, they tell schools they can’t open, because – and I quote the Education Secretary – everyone sat on their arses.
‘Could you think of a more perfect metaphor for this government?
‘A crisis of their making, someone else gets the blame.
‘Useless, incompetent, past their sell-by date.
‘Yet, this government that can’t keep our rivers clean, or run trains on time, or run a functioning NHS, can find time to attack the right to strike.
‘Congress, the right to strike is fundamental.
‘Without the right to withdraw our labour, workers become Disposable, Replaceable, Exploitable.
‘This new law isn’t about preserving services for the public, it’s about telling us to get back in our place.
‘Don’t demand better, sit down – shut up.
‘Well that’s not going to happen, not on my watch.
‘We fought their attack on the right to strike in Parliament. We’ll fight it at the ILO and in the courts.
‘And, when the first worker is sacked for refusing to work on a strike day, we’ll fight it in workplaces on the picket lines!
‘And Congress, this movement will fight it every single day until it is repealed!’
In his concluding remarks, Nowak said: ‘Three messages came back to me from each and every conversation with reps and members.
‘One – we’ve got to build stronger unions;
‘Two – working people are hurting – but the wealthy have never had it so good;
‘And three – it’s time for change in Westminster.’
‘And so this year, we’ll ask our unions to come together and organise across whole industries.
‘And I’m proud, following the scandal at P&O that our first joint union campaign, will be organising seafarers with Nautilus and the RMT.
‘No more P&Os!
‘And we will expand the “Our Work Matters” campaign to seek union recognition for every outsourced facilities worker – at Serco, Sodexo, ISS, Mitie and more.
‘No matter the contract, no matter the workplace, no matter the employer, every outsourced worker needs a union!’
He concluded by calling for a windfall tax on big oil, ending tax avoidance by the wealthy and urging a vote for a Keir Starmer-led Labour government in next year’s general election.
The General Secretary of the TUC remains completely opposed to calling a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers’ government.