Free our unions! Statement for labour movement organisations

At Labour Party conference last year, delegates voted unanimously for a motion to repeal not just the 2016 Trade Union Act but the anti-trade union laws introduced by the Tories in the 1980s and 90s – and to introduce positive legal workers’ rights. (For more, including the text the conference passed, see here). However the party is not yet fighting for these policies. The task is to get them known and actively carried out.

The following statement, initiated by Lambeth Unison, has been passed by a number of union branches and is being circulated throughout the movement. Please put the statement to your branch or other union organisation, Labour-affiliated or not (or in your Labour Party). A model motion for proposing this is included below. If you pass it please also circulate to other branches, trades councils, etc. If you’ve passed it or for more information email

For more information and resources for campaigning against the anti-union laws, see here.


** See below the statement for a model motion to propose it **


We need abolition of the anti-trade union laws, which hamstring workers organising and taking action, and their replacement with strong legal workers’ rights. Otherwise we are fighting the challenges of low pay, insecurity and lack of rights with our hands tied behind our backs.

We applaud the 2017 Labour Party conference’s unanimous call for repeal of not just the 2016 Trade Union Act, but also the “anti-union laws introduced in the 1980s and 90s” by the Tories and maintained after 1997; and for a “strong legal charter of workers’ rights”. “For unions to be effective workers need an effective right to strike”. This builds on the unanimous 2015 decision that the next Labour government should “legislate for strong rights to unionise, win recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket and take solidarity action”.

We will campaign for:

• Complete and speedy repeal of all anti-union laws.
• Strong legal rights for workers to join, recruit to and be represented by a union; strike/take industrial action by a process, at a time and for demands of their own choosing, including in solidarity with any other workers and for broader social and political goals; and picket freely.
• The right to reinstatement for workers found to have been sacked unfairly. A complete ban on dismissal for industrial action, however long it lasts. Full rights from day one of a job.
• Strong rights for unions to access workplaces, win recognition, and establish collective bargaining, including sector-wide bargaining.
• Unions’ right to decide their own policies and activities, determine their own structures and rules, and spend their funds as they choose, free from state and employer interference, in line with ILO Conventions and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Supported by:

Lambeth Local Government Unison
Unite Community and Not for Profit Youth Workers NW
Unite Community SE London
Unite Loretto Care Glasgow
GMB London Central General
Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB)
Hackney Picturehouse BECTU (Prospect) branch
Croydon NEU
PCS DWP East London
RMT Bakerloo Line
RMT London Transport Regional Council
CWU Greater London Combined
Southwark NEU
Lewisham NEU
RMT East Ham
Unite Central London Voluntary
PCS DWP Sheffield
Exeter UCU
Barnet Local Government Unison
Hillingdon Local Government Unison
Unite GPM National Publishing & Media
East Midlands Central RMT
Lewisham Trades Council
London-wide PCS DWP branch reps meeting
Hastings & District Trades Union Council
Northampton NEU
Nottingham Unite Community
London Underground Engineering RMT
Notts Trades Council
Finsbury Park RMT
Cambridge UCU
Newcastle City Unison
Piccadilly & District Line West RMT

The vast majority of the statement was also included in the policy on trade union rights passed by the 2018 Unite the Union national policy conference – see here.


Model motion to propose statement to your branch

Free our unions


1. That the anti-trade union laws – from the 2016 Trade Union Act to the numerous laws introduced by the Tories in the 1980s and 90s – mean unions are fighting the mounting challenges of low pay, precariousness and lack of rights with our arms tied behind our backs.
2. That we need a big push to get these laws repealed and replaced with strong legal rights for workers and unions, including a strong right to strike.
3. That the unanimous vote for such a policy at last year’s Labour Party conference was an excellent step, but Labour is yet to start talking about or campaigning actively for it.

Notes and welcomes

1. The recent comments by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell advocating repeal of the anti-union laws. We need to provide support against resistance to this policy from right-wing MPs, the Tories, the press, etc.
2. The statement on these issues being circulated by a range of union organisations.

1. To sign the statement and stay in touch with the other signatories to coordinate.
2. To circulate it as widely as possible to other branches and sections of the union, and to nearby branches, trades councils [and, as appropriate, Labour Parties], etc, asking for support.
3. To circulate it to members with an explanation of why it is so important.
4. To organise a photo supporting repeal of the anti-union laws and the right to strike at an upcoming meeting. [For posters you can print off/copy, see]
5. To invite a speaker from the campaign.


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