Britain’s Communist Party sounded the alert at the weekend on the Conservative government’s plans for new anti-strike, anti-union legislation.
‘The trade union movement must draw up a united response to the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill before it becomes law’, the party’s Industrial Organiser Andy Bain told the CP executive committee on Saturday (January 7).
The Bill seeks to undermine strikes in any transport services which affect travel for work, health or education purposes or threaten to damage national security, the economy or the environment.
In selected industries, employers and unions would be compelled by law during an industrial dispute to operate a ‘minimum service agreement’, empowering bosses to issue ‘work notices’ forcing employees to break strikes.
‘This is a “slaves charter”, punishing unions and removing the few remaining protections from dismissal for striking workers’, Mr Bain declared, ‘and while unions will explore the possibilities for legal challenges, they also need to draw up a united strategy to frustrate the new law in practice’.
The former union president also warned that the Bill gives wide powers to government ministers to interpret its content, threatening unions and workers in a wide range of industries and services including Border Control and the Environment Agency, oil and gas supplies, the utilities and food distribution.
The Communist Party urged the British, Scottish and Welsh TUCs and their affiliated unions to organise a mass campaign to explain the Bill’s contents to workers, leading to an all-Britain militant ‘day of action’ on the day it receives its Second Reading in the House of Commons.
The campaign could be called ‘Kill the Bill 2’, Mr Bain remarked, recalling the successful struggle to defeat the notorious Industrial Relations Act in the early 1970s. As he spoke, news broke that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Grant Schapps had originally favoured banning union membership altogether in transport industries.
Noting Labour leader Keir Starmer’s pledge to repeal any new legislation should his party take office after the next General Election, he added that the whole labour movement should ‘hold his feet to the fire’, not only to keep his promises but also to reverse 40 years of anti-strike, anti-union and anti-worker legislation.
The CP executive called for a big turn-out for the Stop the War Coalition’s ‘The World War at War – A Trade Union Issue’ conference on January 21 and expressed the party’s solidarity with women and girls facing the theocratic dictatorship in Afghanistan.