Anti-union laws

Spread this open letter!

A new open letter, with its initial signatories including several Labour MPs and leading trade unionists, commits to “fighting for repeal of all the anti-union laws and their replacement with strong legal rights for workers and unions, including strong rights to strike and picket. “We welcome the policy to this effect passed at TUC Congress last year and at multiple Labour Party conferences, and will campaign actively to achieve it." Both the Black Lives Matter struggle and the ongoing climate crisis, it says, highlight “the need for a right to take action over wider issues than only wages...

Starmer: Campbell-Bannerman or Blair?

A Tory government, re-elected last time on a wave of nationalism, is ousted after many years in office. Under it new legal shackles were imposed on trade unions. A soft left government comes to power: what will it do about the right to strike? That could be the situation in a few years’ time. It was the situation in 1906, when a Liberal government led by Henry Campbell-Bannerman replaced the Tories in office. Trade unions and the new Labour Party demanded legislation to overturn the Taff Vale judgement, which made trade unions liable for costs incurred by employers during strikes. Liberal MPs...

"We're showing them we're not weak" - Tower Hamlets workers strike again

After strikes on 3, 6 and 7 July, Tower Hamlets council workers will strike again 15-17 July to overturn the “Tower Rewards” scheme attacking their terms and conditions. Tower Hamlets Unison’s adult social care convener Amina Patel spoke to Sacha Ismail about their fight. For ways you can support the strike, including picket lines, donations and solidarity messages, see the Tower Hamlets Unison website. Please also add your name to this statement. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve had since the action began. This dispute has been on the cards for over a year, but with the pandemic we...

Support the Tower Hamlets workers!

Thousands of council workers in Tower Hamlets struck on 3-6-7 July against mass sackings and the imposition of new, significantly worse terms and conditions under the “Tower Rewards” scheme. As we go to press Tower Hamlets Unison reps have been meeting to discuss their next steps. There may be more strikes in the week starting 13 July. Picket organisers reported a strong strike turnout and good numbers at socially distanced pickets across the borough, plus many more members “striking from home”. Refuse workers organised by Unite and GMB supported the action, and some refused to cross picket...

The birth of the Labour Party and the right to strike

In Solidarity 539 (18 March), I told the story of Labour’s rise and drew lessons for rebuilding independent working-class politics – as opposed to Lib-Lab-type “progressive” politics – today. One aspect I’d like to explore further: how in its first years Labour grew out of, built and led a successful fight to overturn legal anti-strike restrictions and assert workers’ right to strike. That also has lessons for today. Over the second half of the 19th century, trade unions carved out significant space for organising and industrial action. Legal restrictions on the right to strike were much...

The first government to ban strikes in this crisis

Portugal’s social democratic government has for years been cited as a model, particularly among leftish anti-Brexit campaigners. It has done better than other European governments, reversing many austerity measures and expanding elements of social provision, but within a neo-liberal framework. In the pandemic, Portugal has had a lighter toll than elsewhere. (928 deaths so far; the virus arrived later, reaching 10 deaths on 21 March, by which time neighbouring Spain had already had 1381; a lockdown from 23 March “flattened” the curve from early April, even if it has not yet pushed it down much...

Industrial news in brief: London Underground, Royal Mail, civil service

Tube drivers vote for strikes, Tube workers make C-19 demands London Underground drivers in the ASLEF union have voted by a 95.2% majority for strikes to win an improved settlement on pay and conditions, on a 74.5% turnout. Although ASLEF is a minority union on the Tube overall, it represents a slight majority of drivers. The result is significant, and smashes the arbitrary thresholds of the Tories’ anti-union laws. ASLEF’s pay claim overlaps substantially with other unions’ claims, including in its demand for a 32-hour, four-day week. It also includes a sectional claim for a driver-specific...

Clive Lewis on the left after Corbyn

Clive Lewis talked with Sacha Ismail What Corbynism started to talk about in 2015 was an end to austerity, and trying to return to a sort of 1945 moment, trying to recapture a Keynesian economic approach — redistribution of wealth, trying to use social democracy to move us towards a more socialist economy in stages. But also at the beginning it was about democratising the party, which I think is what attracted so many of us. The idea of democracy and membership engagement and members having a real say over policy really resonated. New Labour came in and put their boot on the throat of the...

Industrial news in brief

CWU ballots until 17 March By Ollie Moore As Solidarity went to press on 3 March, Royal Mail workers were beginning a new ballot for industrial action, after a successful ballot last year was injuncted by the High Court. The ballot will close on 17 March. It is about action to prevent a restructure that could see the postal and parcel delivery aspects of Royal Mail’s business separated into distinct companies, a move which the Communication Workers Union (CWU) says could threaten up to 20,000 jobs. The CWU is also demanding that Royal Mail honour an agreement reached in 2018 which included a...

Tower Hamlets backs down

The National Education Union (NEU) in Tower Hamlets, East London, won an important success on 13 February. Under pressure from the NEU and the wider labour movement, the local council withdrew a legal challenge aimed at derailing a strike ballot. On 22 January NEU launched a formal strike ballot in opposition to plans by the council to impose detrimental changes to terms and conditions without consultation with the union. Unison are also planning to ballot. The changes would significantly reduce redundancy payments for teachers and impose new contracts on support staff. The NEU conducted an...

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