Solidarity strikes and Labour democracy

Labour Party conference 2015 voted unanimously for a motion that committed the next Labour government to “legislate for strong rights to unionise, win recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket and take solidarity action”, on the basis of a motion promoted by the Right to Strike campaign formed to fight the Trade Union Bill (now Act) and all anti-union laws.

Yet the motion has not been acted on; and even Jeremy Corbyn, who supports the repeal of all anti-union laws including the ban on solidarity strikes (strikes in support of other workers), increasingly only mentions repealing the TU Act.

Fighting to restore the right to solidarity action is absolutely fundamental to workers defending their interests. It is also essential to standing up for Labour conference’s right to decide party policy rather than being over-ruled or simply ignored.

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Motion on workers’ and union rights passed by Labour Party conference 2015

At the time Right to Strike commented: “There is much in this motion that activists in the Right to Strike campaign and on the left more generally would not find ideal, but it nonetheless represents a step forward.”

Composite 3 – Employment Rights

Conference unreservedly condemns the Trade Union Bill which had its Second Reading on Monday 14th September and regards it as yet another attack on the employment rights of millions of people in the UK.

Conference acknowledges that the Bill follows a series of measures to erode employment and trade union rights in the last Parliament between 2010 and 2015 such as the Transparency of Lobbying (or Gagging Act) and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act which has undermined workers’ access to justice. As an ideologically driven attack on trade union rights and freedoms, the Bill does nothing positive for workers but instead tips the scales considerably in favour of unscrupulous employers.

Conference notes that on 6 August it was announced that the legislation will attack public sector unions’ ability to organise by compulsorily ending check-off arrangements. Conference also believes that these measures are harmful to public sector employers, by cutting off an important revenue stream and making it more difficult for them to engage constructively with unions.

It also attacks unions’ right to fund a working-class political voice, including the vital link between unions and our party.

The proposals will:
• allow agency labour to be used to break a strike
• introduce very high thresholds for industrial action ballots
• severely restrict the right to picket and peacefully protest
• render strikes ineffective through longer notice periods
• significantly reduce union facility time and withdraw check off of union dues in the public sector
• give the Certification Officer investigatory powers into trade unions without specific reason
• require union members to “contract in” to their union’s Political Fund every 5 years significantly reducing the ability of unions to engage in political activity.

Conference believes that:
• it is almost without precedent that a government should seek to force through legislation that will undermine funding of the main opposition party.
• this is a partisan and brazenly political attack. David Cameron is targeting union and Labour funding which is fair, clean and democratic, while doing nothing about spending limits nor addressing the fact that Tories are financed by a small pool of mega-rich donors.
• workers’ right, including the right to strike, are essential to the labour movement’s ability to stand up for workers’ interests, and democracy.
• the good work undertaken by the Work and Prosperity Commission in their review of working life before the election offers a useful framework for the Labour Party to develop a policy which strengthens the employment rights of workers in the UK.
• the UK has some of the lowest employment rights protections in the OECD and regrets that our legislation does not comply with ILO core conventions.
• stronger employment and trade union rights increase productivity, reduce inequality and help create a more balanced economy and urges the Labour Party to commit to ensuring they are at the heart of a progressive Labour economic policy.

Conference calls on:
• all sections of the Labour Party to actively oppose the passage of the Bill, together with any associated secondary legislation, through Parliament.
• the Labour Party to use this opportunity to campaign for the introduction of secure workplace balloting to be used in all industrial action/strike ballots and for statutory ballots relating to internal trade union democracy.
• Labour to commit to repeal the Bill and all associated legislation/regulation when Labour returns to Government and to introduce a comprehensive package of employment rights compliant with ILO core conventions and European human rights obligations, along with the levelling up of workers’ rights across the EU; legislate for strong rights to unionise, win recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket and take solidarity action.

The Party should unambiguously promote trade union membership and workers’ rights and to highlight the positive role played by trade unions in the UK in 2015.

Mover: Unite
Seconder: Derbyshire Dales CLP


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