19 Days Remaining

Tuesday 15th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

IT IS not just trade unionists who should be deeply alarmed at the cavalier approach David Cameron and his cronies take to stripping working people of their rights.

As TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady told Congress yesterday, this is a Bill aiming to “cut Britain’s unions off at the knees.”

The arbitrary thresholds it imposes on strike ballots are — as O’Grady, Len McCluskey and many others have pointed out — nothing to do with increasing turnout or increasing the democratic legitimacy of industrial action.

If that were the case, the government would accept union requests to allow secure online and workplace balloting, the obvious way to increase voter turnout.

They are a bid to outlaw strikes — and render those strikes which do go ahead irrelevant by letting bosses bus in agency workers.

Without the internationally recognised right to withdraw our labour, working people will have no legal lever to resist attacks on their pay, pensions or working conditions by management.

But the Bill doesn’t just do that.

As even Tory rightwinger David Davis admits, clauses forcing anyone standing on a picket line to hand their names and details to the police and their employer in advance have more in common with fascist Spain than any democratic country.

The Tories have no mandate for this Bill. Two-thirds of British people oppose letting agency staff break strikes, with well over half expressing concern at the consequences for safety and the quality of services.

But drunk on a fluke majority courtesy of 24 per cent of the electorate and a broken voting system, they are pressing ahead regardless.

Just as in the last parliament they had no qualms about opening the doors of the National Health Service to privateers or selling a treasured public asset like Royal Mail, even though nobody voted for these policies — and massive majorities opposed them.

Weakening unions weakens us all. Trade unions do far, far more than occasionally take strike action to defend working people and protect services.

They have led the campaigns against zero-hours contracts and insecure work, shamed restaurant bosses into letting their staff keep the tips given to them by customers and are a constant source of advice, support and assistance for millions of workers in time of need.

And unions’ collective bargaining power raises wages not just for their members but across the board.

No-one should be under any illusions. If this government is prepared to turn Britain into a police state to smash trade unions, we will quickly see other groups told to inform the authorities before speaking out against injustice.

Such is the extremism of the current Conservative Party that we face an uphill struggle preventing this attack on our civil liberties becoming law.

But the potential exists to build a resistance capable of overturning it.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his new shadow chancellor John McDonnell have vowed unanimous opposition.

Those Labour MPs still sniping at Corbyn’s overwhelming democratic mandate to lead their party and sneering at his shadow cabinet choices must wake up and realise unity against this rotten Bill — which also contains a shameless bid to cripple the opposition financially, giving the Tories a permanent inbuilt electoral advantage — has a real chance of success.

It is opposed not just by Labour but by the Scottish National Party, the Greens, even the Liberal Democrats.

The enormous wave of enthusiasm generated by Corbyn and the mass political participation he has unleashed give us a chance to make this unjust Bill unworkable.

Jeremy has returned hope to this country. Now we need unity and the ambition to follow up his triumph and kill the Bill.