"This week’s announcement by Rishi Sunak’s Tory government that they intend to introduce new legislation attacking trade unions and the right to strike in Britain must be met with determined and united resistance by the labour movement.
The new measures are set to attack the ability of workers in eight “key sectors” (including the NHS, ambulance, rail, schools, border security, fire and rescue and nuclear) to organise and withdraw their labour. The Tories intend to impose so-called ‘minimum service levels’ requirements on striking workers which they will be required to meet, even where they have democratically decided to withdraw their labour power. Where workers fail to provide this state mandated ‘minimum’, employers will be free to sack striking workers and sue trade unions in court to prevent strikes and claim damages.
This amounts to a fundamental attack on hard won working class democratic rights and civil liberties and an attempt to remove the right to withdraw your labour power. Last summer the Tories also passed legalisation allowing the use of agency staff to scab during strike action.
While nothing new and building on decades of attempts to destroy Britain’s labour movement, this latest attack demonstrates just how seriously the ruling class and their government are taking the current wave of strike action and increasing industrial militancy across Britain.
While full details of the legislation are yet to be published the measures are based on Grant Schapps’ ‘16 point plan’. Other features of the 16 point plan which the Tories are yet to rule out include an even higher strike ballot threshold in the public and private sectors, forcing unions to provide even more notice of strike action, even tighter rules on picketing and allowing employers to bypass unions during pay negotiations.
We can expect the minimum service levels attack to be the thin end of the wedge in a broader, fundamental and purposely anti-democratic attack on the right to strike.
While efforts by the TUC and individual unions to prevent the new legislation through legal action are to be supported, this is not enough. We must be clear where power lies and how that power is wielded against the working class – and also clear and confident about the power held by the working class and the labour movement. To rely on bourgeois courts to defend the working class is playing on the ruling class’ terms. The legal battle may be won in the short term but we cannot rely on this to defeat the attempts to disband and disarm working class institutions, especially given the Tories broader attacks on democratic rights and civil liberties in Britain.
The latest anti-union laws must be a red line for the labour movement. Only a mass movement across Britain including all major trade unions can successfully resist such an anti-democratic move. The fight back against the current anti-strike laws can and must be developed into a proactive campaign for trade union freedom, defeating the current attack and fighting to roll back all existing anti-union laws in Britain.
The response of Britain’s Communists is clear:
— Join your trade union and be active in your workplace.
— Support the strikes taking place across Britain and your local picket lines.
— Galvanise resistance to the new Tory anti-strike laws and develop this into a proactive movement for trade union freedom including the TUC and all trade unions.
— Join the YCL and Communist Party and play your part in the struggle for Socialism and working class state power and to end ruling class attacks permanently".
Young Communist League
6 January 2023