On Monday, the Tories pushed through the first reading of legislation that will allow employment agencies to supply workers to effectively fill scab roles whilst workers are taking strike action. Any threat to use this strike-breaking law needs to be met with mass pickets and demonstrations to prevent scabbing, together with wider industrial action and protests at scab agency company premises.
In the last few months, we have seen effective strike action around the country, with some workers winning pay rises of 20% and up. Clearly this is not in the Tories’ interests, nor those of their big business friends who will squeeze out profits at the expense of those who create the wealth in society – workers.
With further strike action ongoing, from RMT workers, now joined by other rail workers in ASLEF and TSSA, to refuse workers, BT workers, and bus drivers around the country amongst others, to the potential strike action of Royal Mail workers, NHS staff and teachers, the Tories are terrified.
They are attempting to implement new laws to require a minimum level of staffing is maintained during a strike – in other words potentially banning significant proportions of those who have voted to strike from actually doing so. Not only will this essentially remove the right of workers to withdraw their labour during a dispute, but also raise significant health and safety concerns that untrained and unqualified staff may be doing the work of a trained and qualified workforce.
The fight against this latest raft of anti-trade union legislation should not be a muffled one. The TUC demo on June 18 and the Durham Miners’ Gala at the weekend indicate that the trade union movement is reawakening, and must oppose this legislation, including raising the question of breaking the law if it is passed.
Union leaders have have attacked these threats. Strong words need to be turned into action to resist any attempts at imposing or using new anti-union laws. The Tories will be keen to attack the RMT, CWU and Unite, among others.
The entire trade union movement should mount solidarity demonstrations, mass pickets and where possible if necessary widespread industrial action to defend any group of workers singled out by the government, alongside pressure on scab agencies that are lined up as part of this legislation.
Appeals should also be made to agency workers to not cross picket lines – when some agency workers were hired to cross picket lines at the recent P&O mass firings, they refused to do so, understanding the implications this would have. This could be replicated on a much larger scale.
The entire working-class will need to stand together to coordinate and escalate action to defend the right to strike!