From the TUC

Conservative strike plans are an aggressive assault on our rights and our democracy

13 May 2015, by in Politics

That one of the first priorities of the new government has been to push ahead with punitive new plans for strike ballots is not just a blow for union members, but a blow for UK democracy.

Politicians often say that the alternative to strikes is talking, but there is a fundamental difference between talking and negotiating. You only get real negotiation when there is power on both sides of the table. Collective bargaining works because both sides understand what the other can deliver. This is why the vast majority of strike ballots don’t actually result in strikes but end with a negotiated deal.

But if you take away the right to official strike action, one of two things happens. Either workers end up merely asking their employer for more – with as much power as Oliver Twist brought to the negotiating table. Or you end up with hard-to-manage and destabilising unofficial action, whether wildcat strikes or mass duvet days.

No other mainstream political party in the world has launched such a fundamental attack on this basic human right.

The government’s plans for union ballots will make legal strikes close to impossible. The architects of these plans know that union ballots, particularly of large dispersed workforces, rarely meet a 50% threshold, and that a turnout threshold does not necessarily test the level of support for a strike.

What these proposals are really about is stopping in advance any opposition to the Conservatives’ plans to cut hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs over the course of this parliament.

Unions too often are the last line of defence on these issues. And the government want to make it more difficult for ordinary people, fire-fighters, nurses, midwives, and teachers to express their democratic wishes and to take industrial action in defence of their jobs and pay.

As well as increasing ballot thresholds, the Conservatives have announced that they will lift the ban on employers using agency staff during strikes – a deliberate attempt to break those strikes that do take place.

And in a sinister taste of things to come, they want to create specific new criminal offences for people on picket lines. The Conservatives are proposing that if a seventh person joins a peaceful and good-natured picket line, all seven could be prosecuted and given a criminal record. New specific technology offences will mean strikers will face tougher legal restrictions on Twitter than other people. This will open up union activists to enhanced surveillance as potential criminals.

Make no mistake. The Conservatives strike plans are the most aggressive assault on basic labour rights anywhere in the developed world and will impact on union and non-union members alike.

It is essential that all fair-minded democrats fight them.

7 Responses to Conservative strike plans are an aggressive assault on our rights and our democracy

  1. Derek Durkin
    May 13th 2015, 4:37 pm

    OK that’s the Tory plans. You’ve outlined them well Frances. However, I see no comment about what the TUC intend to do about it. Is there to be any effort made to mount radical opposition to the plans? Are we, as Trade Unionists, going to swallow these measures and await the return of a Labour Government who repealed none of the anti TU legislation during their 13 years in power? Don’t let our movement suffer the same fate as the Labour Party in Scotland. By their ditching of working class principles they have become an irrelevance to working people.

  2. ian mcintosh
    May 13th 2015, 5:56 pm

    Yes, good article. The plan is now what?

  3. Chris Bell
    May 13th 2015, 7:59 pm

    Good points Frances, but talking and listening to a government that can’t and doesn’t want to hear is a waste of energy. Labour did next to nothing and these will do even less. The only thing bullies understand is being confronted. They will only change if they are made to.

  4. John
    May 14th 2015, 5:15 am

    With no doubt employer / union employee relations look set to regress to the equivalent working conditions of Victorian Britain! On all these issues ‘United we stand’ ís going to be more important than ever. After reading your informative article Francés O’Grady, the future does indeed look bleak, but I hope that with your leading organisation the TUC, the ITUC, the best legal advice and fair & independent media coverage then there has to be a way forward out of what appears to be a dead-end cul de sac. I realise that you will all be under even more pressure. The best of luck with all or this.

    I nów hope that more people will join there relevant union.

  5. ian murie
    May 14th 2015, 11:33 am

    Since thatcher destroyed union power, I’ve worked in factories and warehouses with hellish work conditions, pay and worst of all, because of so little rights, no feeling of worth. Mass depression is amongst the working class and I believe this is a huge factor.
    No political party has even tried to rebalance the situation. People have become so downtrodden over such a long time they haven’t noticed how controlled they are. Grimly sad. Yet mental health budgets are diminishing.
    So wrong on every level !!!!

  6. Lidia
    May 16th 2015, 11:25 pm

    The article is good but I agree with the comments, what are we going to do now, and is there any plan to organise radical opposition to these plans, I mean radical not just a walk around the streets of London or any other big city with union officials doing the job of the police. This is the reason we are where we are, Labour ain’t going to improve matters either At the moment in England we have no real working class party Labour is just a joke which is why as Derek states the Labour Party has been ditched in Scotland. The Unions ditched the miners, people need to know the unions are not going to do this again.

  7. Lidia
    May 16th 2015, 11:28 pm

    See above