Anti-union laws

Activist agenda: Safe and Equal, Free Our Unions, Neurodivergent Labour, Poplar 100

Safe and Equal is pursuing its drive for full isolation pay for all with systematic phoning-round of its hundreds of contacts, demands for information from councils and from the NHS Test and Trace operators, and an appeal to other groups for a united front on the issue. Momentum Internationalists has given support; a good informal response from Don’t Leave Organise, but no formal answer yet. Free Our Unions has a Zoom meeting on anti-union laws, Tuesday 2 March, 6:30 pm. Speakers include Gerry Carroll MLA on the Trade Union Freedom Bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mark Porter, Unite...

Activist agenda: Free movement; Sick pay; Right to strike

Safe and Equal will now run organising sessions weekly on Wednesdays at 6 pm, alternate Wednesdays discussions, the other Wednesdays phone-round sessions. The purpose is to push its campaign for isolation pay, which high infection rates make ultra-urgent, so help in the coming weeks will be very valuable: email safeandequal@gmail.com. A particular focus is on careworkers’ isolation pay, and S&E is working with a number of careworkers about local action on that. S&E is approaching other groups which have backed the call for full isolation pay, such as Don’t Leave Organise, to propose a...

Picketing still lawful

Prior to the first day of the Sage care workers’ strike on 15 January, legal advice obtained by the United Voices of the World union suggested that picketing may be unlawful under the new lockdown. After a physical picket line planned for the first day of the strike was called off, picket lines on subsequent strike days happened without obstruction. British Gas workers have also been picketing during their ongoing strikes. Further legal advice has clarified that picketing remains lawful, and the confusion stemmed from the Crown Prosecution Service including misleading and out-of-date...

Activist agenda

Safe and Equal is producing a new leaflet soon for door-to-door distribution, and developing a call on other campaigning groups which have backed better isolation pay to organise a united front on the issue. Bell Ribiero-Addy MP has been working with the campaign to investigate the employment practices of companies working under the Track and Trace banner. Frontline workers at test centres indicate that many are employed on zero-hours contracts, without isolation pay. A number of activists are now lobbying their councils trying to ensure all care providers pay full sick pay. Unison activists...

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...

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