Open letter: Stop the anti Trade Union Bill

To sign your name to this open letter please email ourrighttostrike[at]gmail.com

The full extent of the attack on our rights by the Tory anti Trade Union Bill is becoming clear. Not just introducing hypocritically high strike ballot thresholds (which most politicians wouldn’t pass in elections) whilst refusing to consider workplace or online balloting, the bill seeks to criminalise effective picketing, remove our political funds and even stop unions using social media. We cannot stand for these unjust laws.
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Report from first Sheffield meeting

On Thursday 30th July, Sheffield hosted a small but action-focussed meeting to consider how to defend the right to strike where we are. In addition to the hypocritical ballot thresholds, the criminalisation of picketing was noted as further increasing the policing role of the trade union bureaucracies on strikes, something that is already a significant block to effective industrial strategies. As well as agreeing that much work needed to be done in educating union members, those not in work were keen to get literature for the public as well to highlight the benefits for society that have come with strong trade unions whether it be on weekends and health and safety, or in being a counter-weight to rising inequality.

PCS DWP Sheffield branch had passed a practical motion that sought to arrange street stalls, a public meeting with the Trades Council and lobbying of local politicians, which the meeting supported. Other reps and activists from UCU, UNISON Health, NUT along with retired workers resolved to arrange stalls at big, more unionised workplaces having liaised with those branches. It was agreed that stalls will publicise and support local disputes and show concretely how these would be impacted by the Bill. The meeting agreed to draft a letter to The Star newspaper, and we will begin lobbying City Councillors to pass a motion defending the right to strike and ensuring Labour politicians come out publicly on our side.

The meeting agreed to reach out to those unions that aren’t delegated to Trades Council but are likely to be strongly against the Trade Union Bill such as the FBU and CWU. A larger Right To Strike meeting will be held before the new Parliamentary session to mobilise more of Sheffield’s unions against this anti-democratic Tory attack.

Max Munday
South Yorkshire Unite Community branch

Report from the first North West mobilising meeting

Seventeen trade unionists attended the first meeting of the Right to Strike campaign in the north west last Thursday, from Unite, Unison, PCS, RMT, UCU, and NUT. Some represented branches which have already voted to back the campaign.

There was a wide-ranging discussion about the bill and its implications. Some of the most worrying aspects of the proposed law are those that have not made the headlines as much, for example the ease with which peaceful picketing will be criminalised, and the legalisation of the use of agency staff as strikebreakers (whether this happens in the Trade Union Bill or secondary legislation).

Comrades agreed on the need for a bottom-up campaign to stop the bill, given the initial response from most union leaderships. Reps will need to undertake educational work in branches to explain what this bill means for the day-to-day work of trade unionists. As well as targeting Tory MPs, most of whom failed to pass their own proposed 40% ballot threshold in the recent general election, we need to put Labour MPs on the spot to clarify that they will vote against this bill.

Another meeting date was provisonally agreed as 26th August (watch this space for details). We will throw the net wider for this meeting and invite more branches and organisations like IER, CTUF and others to attend. We will be aiming to mobilise as many people as possible to the Tory Party conference demonstration in Manchester on 4th October, where there will be a Right to Strike bloc. In the meantime, comrades will be raising the idea of campaigning against the bill in their respective unions and trades councils, and we will be responsive to any initiatives which come from elsewhere in the movement.

Has your branch backed the campaign? Could you organise a meeting in your region? Let us know at ourrighttostrike [at] gmail.com

Open letter to Labour leadership candidates: Where do you stand on the Trade Union Bill?

Dear Andy, Yvette, Jeremy, and Liz,

You will be aware of the government’s proposed Trade Union Bill, which, if signed into law, will bring in turnout thresholds for strike ballots, an ‘opt-in’ system for political funds, and attacks on facility time and further restrictions on picketing.

We are active trade unionists from across the movement who have come together to form the ‘Right to Strike’ campaign in an attempt to defeat this bill, and we are asking for your support.

We believe that trade union rights are among the most fundamental democratic rights, and a hallmark of a free society. The rights to free association, free expression, and the right to withhold one’s labour and collectively bargain for better conditions all find their expression in the trade union movement. The past generations who built our movement, including the Labour Party, fought, struggled, and in some cases died to gain these rights.

No other voluntary organisations in the country face the levels of legal interference in their internal affairs that we in the trade union movement deal with. From Norman Tebbit’s Employment Act of 1980 through the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Act 1992 which sets much of the current terrain of industrial relations, the law has bit by bit restricted and outlawed what we believe to be legitimate trade union activity, including the ability of workers to take action in solidarity with others. The last Labour government shamefully refused to repeal the vast majority of these measures.

With the Labour leadership race in full swing, tens of thousands of affiliated members in the unions will be concerned about this proposed law and looking to the party to oppose it in and out of Parliament.

On behalf of the Right to Strike campaign, we therefore ask for clarification on your position on the following points:

1) Will you speak against, vote against, and publicly and energetically campaign against the bill, and urge parliamentary colleagues to do the same?

2) Should the bill pass, would a future Labour government led by you repeal it?

3) Would a future Labour government led by you repeal any of the existing trade union legislation?

4) Would a future Labour government led by you institute a Trade Union Bill of Rights, enshrining the right to strike into law, legalising sympathy strikes and secondary picketing, and allowing full political freedom to trade unions?

Thank you for your time,

Right to Strike campaign committee

Right to Strike Mobilising Meetings

The government’s Trade Union Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, is likely to soon be introduced into Parliament for its first reading.

It’s crucial that trade unionists start coming together to campaign to stop the bill. Details of regional meetings will be posted here. We’ll also post up details of any other meetings and events opposing the bill that we know of, so get in tough if you’re organising something by emailing ourrighttostrike [at] gmail.com.

2nd North West mobilising meeting

Tuesday 26th August, 6.30pm

Boardroom, Jack Jones House, Liverpool

London organising meeting of Right to Strike campaign

The Trade Union Bill is likely to have the first reading in July.

We are holding a mobilising meeting in London (others are being planned in other areas) to start coordinating work in local branches and begin a discussion about what kind of action we need to defeat the new proposals and fight for a right to strike.

Thursday 16 July, 7pm

Birkbeck University,
Room 541,
Malet St, London
WC1E 7HX

All trade unionists welcome.