Organise against the Trade Union Bill so we can defend pay, conditions and education
This Association condemns the plans outlined in the new Conservative Government’s Trade Union Bill to introduce ballot thresholds designed to further undermine the ability of trade union members to take lawful strike action, particularly national action that could challenge their attacks, such as that agreed on education funding at 2015 NUT Annual Conference.
Insisting on at least a 50% turnout – and that over 40% of the total membership votes ‘yes’ in ‘essential public services’ such as schools – has nothing to do with ‘democracy’. These thresholds would, for example, have turned Ireland’s recent marriage equality referendum victory into a ‘defeat’. It should be for trade unions to decide if they think support is broad enough for action to be called – not for anti-union, pro-cuts politicians to block strike action.
The Bill is being introduced, after all, by a Government elected by just 24% of the electorate. If they were really concerned about building participation in union ballots, then they would allow unions to replace home postal ballots with workplace balloting using mobile phones and internet voting. No, their real concern is to prevent firm strike action being taken against their plans for further cuts, privatisation and attacks on public services, and on the pay, rights and conditions of those who work in those services, including teachers.
This Association believes that these plans are a particular threat to teacher trade unions organised, as we are, over many different workplaces. Schools will be included as ‘essential services’ and so have the most difficult thresholds to reach. The Tories also plan to make it lawful for schools to employ supply teachers to cover for striking teachers while also toughening rules on picketing.
While a well organised school group should achieve these thresholds, securing the turnout required to win a national ballot will be much harder. Therefore, this Bill threatens further fragmentation and our ability to bring members together across England & Wales in a united challenge to Government attacks. However, we believe this attack can be fought successfully – but only if a determined public campaign is launched as a matter of urgency.
This Association agrees to:
- Contact other local NUT Associations, trade union branches and the Trades Council to organise joint activities to publicise and oppose these threats, including calling on local Labour MPs and Councillors to publicly condemn the Tories’ plans and advocate Labour repeals them when it comes in to office.
- To alongside other Associations and union branches to seek to set up a “Defend the right to strike” campaign committee to oppose the threat of new anti-union laws. To delegate members from the Association to be on this committee and work with the committee to publicise it as widely as possible to other branches and activists, and to host a campaign meeting soon.
- To organise local stunts to publicise the campaign, such as lobbies of Tory MPs in the immediate vicinity who are elected with a smaller mandate than the one proposed as necessary to endorse strike action.
- That this campaign should include discussions about the importance of and openings for unions being willing to defy the law.
- To continue to call for the repeal of all the anti-union laws and the introduction of positive legal rights, including rights to strike, picket and take solidarity and political industrial action.
This Association further calls on the NUT National Executive to:
- Use ‘The Teacher’ and Reps’ Bulletins to clearly explain how the Trade Union Bill threatens our ability to defend teachers, schools and other public services from Government attacks, and why we must organise to oppose these threats.
- Co-ordinate with other trade unions and campaign groups to organise either a midweek or weekend national demonstration in London to coincide with the date when the Bill is being debated in Parliament, likely to be this autumn.
- Call on the TUC to help co-ordinate a national campaign of public meetings and rallies to oppose these attacks, using the slogan proposed by the nine trade unions in the Trade Union Co-Ordinating Group of “Resist Tory austerity, Defend union rights”.