Motions from supporters of the Right To Strike Campaign were influential in an important motion passed at the Labour Party conference on Tuesday. Right To Strike had two motions to the conference (online here) about not only the new Trade Union Bill but repealing the previous anti-trade union legislation from Thatcher’s time. There were also other motions dealing with a positive argument around a right to strike – something we do not currently have.
The final motion, which was agreed unanimously took key parts from our motion on supporting solidarity action (which is currently illegal) and the idea of a positive bill of workers’ rights to protect us from government and management attacks. The final motion called for a Labour government to introduce “a comprehensive package of employment rights compliant with ILO core conventions and European human rights obligations”
However, during the compositing process even the left led unions couldn’t accept the idea of repealing the previous anti union laws – effectively meaning that they want to maintain the status quo.
This isn’t good enough. The anti-union laws in Britain are designed to prevent us fighting back, they undermine the very basis of the trade union movement, workplace democracy and that an injury to one is an injury to all. They also make political strike action illegal, reducing the trade unions to only campaigning around terms and conditions for their members.
The motion that was passed was a step forward and can now be a point of focus for Labour party and trade union activists across the country. But we need to go further, which is why Right To Strike is not just opposed to the current proposed law, we are campaigning against all the anti-trade union laws.
If you want to join and get involved then download our motion and pass it at your union branch.
Text of the motion passed by the Labour Party conference 2015
Conference unreservedly condemns the Trade Union Bill which had its Second Reading on Monday 14th September and regards it as yet another attack on the employment rights of millions of people in the UK.
Conference acknowledges that the Bill follows a series of measures to erode employment and trade union rights in the last Parliament between 2010 and 2015 such as the Transparency of Lobbying (or Gagging Act) and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act which has undermined workers’ access to justice. As an ideologically driven attack on trade union rights and freedoms, the Bill does nothing positive for workers but instead tips the scales considerably in favour of unscrupulous employers.
Conference notes that on 6 August it was announced that the legislation will attack public sector unions’ ability to organise by compulsorily ending check-off arrangements. Conference also believes that these measures are harmful to public sector employers, by cutting off an important revenue stream and making it more difficult for them to engage constructively with unions.
It also attacks unions’ right to fund a working-class political voice, including the vital link between unions and our party.
The proposals will:
• allow agency labour to be used to break a strike
• introduce very high thresholds for industrial action ballots
• severely restrict the right to picket and peacefully protest
• render strikes ineffective through longer notice periods
• significantly reduce union facility time and withdraw check off of union dues in the public sector
• give the Certification Officer investigatory powers into trade unions without specific reason
• require union members to “contract in” to their union’s Political Fund every 5 years significantly reducing the ability of unions to engage in political activity.
Conference believes that:
• it is almost without precedent that a government should seek to force through legislation that will undermine funding of the main opposition party.
• this is a partisan and brazenly political attack. David Cameron is targeting union and Labour funding which is fair, clean and democratic, while doing nothing about spending limits nor addressing the fact that Tories are financed by a small pool of mega-rich donors.
• workers’ right, including the right to strike, are essential to the labour movement’s ability to stand up for workers’ interests, and democracy.
• the good work undertaken by the Work and Prosperity Commission in their review of working life before the election offers a useful framework for the Labour Party to develop a policy which strengthens the employment rights of workers in the UK.
• the UK has some of the lowest employment rights protections in the OECD and regrets that our legislation does not comply with ILO core conventions.
• stronger employment and trade union rights increase productivity, reduce inequality and help create a more balanced economy and urges the Labour Party to commit to ensuring they are at the heart of a progressive Labour economic policy.
Conference calls on:
• all sections of the Labour Party to actively oppose the passage of the Bill, together with any associated secondary legislation, through Parliament.
• the Labour Party to use this opportunity to campaign for the introduction of secure workplace balloting to be used in all industrial action/strike ballots and for statutory ballots relating to internal trade union democracy.
• Labour to commit to repeal the Bill and all associated legislation/regulation when Labour returns to Government and to introduce a comprehensive package of employment rights compliant with ILO core conventions and European human rights obligations, along with the levelling up of workers’ rights across the EU; legislate for strong rights to unionise, win recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket and take solidarity action.
The Party should unambiguously promote trade union membership and workers’ rights and to highlight the positive role played by trade unions in the UK in 2015.