03 Mar There May Be Trouble Ahead….
Boris Johnson’s majority almost certainly means that the Tories will mount further offensives on the rights and living standards of working people. As usual, they are likely to come after the trade unions as the first line of defence. But unity is strength – and our unions must stand together to resist the latest Tory attacks.
The Trade Union Coordinating Group, comprises ten national trade unions (BFAWU, FBU, NAPO, NEU, NUJ, PCS, POA, RMT, UCU and URTU) which exists to co-ordinate campaigning activities in Parliament and beyond. Originally founded by the late Simeon Andrews, together with John McDonnell MP, the TUCG is committed to an active fightback – helping to link up industrial and political resistance.
It’s already clear from the Queen’s Speech that there will be plenty to resist in the new Parliament. Our priorities for the period ahead include:
Defending the Right to Strike
Rail workers are the first to find their trade union rights under further attack, as the Tories plan to introduce new “minimum service level agreements” compelling trade union members to undermine their own strike action by being legally required to run services. It’s vital that other unions stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the rail unions, as this might be the thin end of the wedge. They could easily look to expand the scope of these measures to include other “essential services” – like the Fire Service, nursing, or schools. The attack on the right to strike is an attack on all trade unionists, and must resist be resisted.
Fighting for Better Pensions
The biggest wave of coordinated strike action following the Tory victory in 2010 was that around attacks on public–sector pensions. Even by police estimates over 400,000 public sector workers took strike action on marched on Parliament to protest the cuts. However, the unions were ultimately divided, as the Government played “divide and rule” between people on different schemes. But the issue isn’t going away. Already UCU members in universities across the country have gone on strike in protest at attacks on pensions and pay. The FBU defeated the Government in the courts over changes to their pension scheme, but now the Tories want the cost of their failure to be picked up by other public sector workers – like low paid civil servants. We need to fight back together.
Protecting Workers’ Rights post-Brexit
The Tories have taken out of earlier versions of the EU Withdrawal Act commitments to respect workers’ rights set out in EU directives such as holiday pay and statutory maternity pay. Whilst these rights have been translated into UK law for the immediate transition, there is now nothing to stop the new Employment Bill or future legislation from scrapping or reducing workers’ entitlements in the UK. We need to fight to improve our rights at work – for example with stronger protections against bullying and harassment, or getting rid of the gender/ethnicity pay gaps – not lose the little we have.
Opposing Racism – For Refugee and Migrant Rights
The free movement of citizens between the UK and EU comes to an end with Brexit, but the Tories “points-based” immigration system means that people have to be earning least £25600 to work here, or else be skilled in areas deemed to have “shortages”. However, in reality many industries like care homes and agriculture worry they won’t recruit enough British workers to plug the gaps. If the economy suffers, it won’t be the rich who pay the price. In reality our problems are caused by bad employers and Tory austerity, not by immigrant workers. Racism helps the bosses keep workers divided amongst ourselves. We hope to produce a booklet later in the year on how trade unions can work with our own members to stamp out racism.
Action on the Climate Emergency
The Government is missing even its own current inadequate carbon emissions targets – and fell even further behind in 2019. At the same time, Boris Johnson is allowing Britain’s International Development bank to strike major new investment deals in fossil fuel extraction across Africa. Ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow later this year, it’s critical that trade unionists join climate activists and young people demanding a system which puts the interest of people and planet before profit.
If we give this Government an inch, they’ll take a mile. Too often, some of the bigger unions have acted as though there’s nothing much we can do. But people will join trade unions when the see a fightback happening. That’s why the TUCG unions can set an example for the rest of the movement.
For more on the work of the TUCG follow @TUCGinfo on Twitter, see our website www.tucg.org.uk and look out for our fringe meetings at the TUC and Labour Party conference.