TRADES council members urged the Labour Party leadership contenders this weekend to support the right to strike and the repeal of anti-trade union laws.
Citing Tory manifesto pledges to restrict the right to strike by introducing draconian ballot thresholds, delegates to the 2015 trades council conference recalled how right-wing former Labour PM Tony Blair boasted of having the most restrictive trade union legislation in western Europe.
Leicester delegate Paul Henderson said that the laws “rip the heart out of trade unions” and urged the TUC to take action.
Jim Thakoordin slammed Labour for its inaction, insisting that “trade union rights are a basic human right.”
“Our members are not fools,” he said, adding that anti-union legislation had caused Britain’s inequality.
Merseyside TUC’s Kevin Robinson, who was a Mersey docker until the disputes of the early 1990s, invoked the memory of transport union RMT’s departed leader Bob Crow.
“If you fight you might win, but if you don’t fight you always lose,” Mr Crow once said, outlining the importance of passing on experience and engaging with younger workers.
Mr Robinson declared that workers must defy the strike laws to take action and could not seek support from fellow workers as it was unlawful.
The dockers were “indebted to those who supported us,” he said.
Camden delegate Philip Lewis said that “working people need representation” and that there should be “no special favours for the Labour Party if they don’t back us.”
And he said that the party must ensure Jeremy Corbyn gets on the ballot paper in the Labour leadership election despite deliberate attempts to stop this.
Derby TUC delegate Bill Greenshields stressed the need to build the labour movement from the bottom up in order to defeat the anti-trade union laws and stated that trades councils would be central to this.
He reminded the conference of a time when the movement, through organisations such as the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions, could organise mass demonstrations, call a general strike and “get people out of jail.”