What TUC Congress just called for on union rights goes much further than Labour’s proposals

At TUC Congress in Brighton, on 9 September, the following composite motion was passed unanimously. The bulk of the text came from a motion submitted by the Fire Brigades Union, closely modelled on the demands of the Free Our Unions campaign (original FBU submission here); much of the rest from a motion submitted by the Bakers’ Union; and some from amendments to the FBU’s motion.

It is, unfortunately, the case that the widely-celebrated proposals contained in Jeremy Corbyn and shadow Minister for Labour Laura Pidcock’s speeches, while very welcome, remain miles from the central thrust of this motion – demanding repeal of all anti-union laws and strong, unrestricted rights to strike and picket. Despite clear Labour conference policy, the Labour leadership remains reticent on this crucial question, as do the leaderships of many unions. We need to build the pressure in and on the party as well as in the unions – which is what Free Our Unions exists to do.

For the text on the TUC website, see here. For all motions discussed at TUC Congress, see here.

The FBU and Free Our Unions also held a fringe meeting at the Congress, speakers pictured below. Reports soon.

Outsourced BEIS striker and PCS activist Clive Willoughby; Michelle Rodgers, RMT President (chair); Ruth Cashman, Lambeth Unison Secretary and Free Our Unions; Jo Grady, UCU General Secretary; Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary

Composite 08: Free our unions

Congress notes that the anti-trade union laws – not just the 2016 Trade Union Act, but multiple laws going back to 1980 – continually undermine workers’ ability to organise and campaign. A further example of anti-union laws is the Criminal Justice Public Order Act 1994, Section 127, which makes it a criminal offence to induce prison officers to take any form of industrial action and by doing so could lead to contempt of court.

These laws mean our movement is fighting the challenges of low pay, insecurity and erosion of hard-won terms and conditions with our hands tied behind our backs.

It is clear that we now face a major threat from a right-wing Conservative government who, despite what they may be saying, are prepared to cut workers’ rights and further undermine trade union organising in order to achieve their ideological aims outside the EU.

Congress welcomes recent Labour Party conference policy (2015, 2017, 2018) to repeal all anti-union laws and replace them with strong legal rights for workers and unions, including rights to strike and picket.

Congress believes it is crucial the next Labour government acts quickly to implement this policy.

Congress believes workers need strong rights to join, recruit to and be represented by an independent 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.

Congress applauds the work of TUC affiliates in continuing to take action, including strike action and action short of strike action, to defend members at work and challenge employers that breach statutory trade union rights.

Congress welcomes Labour’s commitment to reviving collective bargaining but believes that – to quote the Institute of Employment Rights – “collective bargaining without the right to strike is collective begging”.

Congress is concerned by the lack of legislation allowing trade unions to have direct access to workers in unorganised workplaces. There is legislation enshrined in New Zealand which allows trade unions the right to approach workers in their workplaces without obstruction from anti-union employers, which has seen a significant growth in trade union membership.

Congress calls on present and future governments to legislate to incorporate access laws for all trade unions onto the statute book.

Congress agrees to campaign, and encourage affiliated unions and trades councils to campaign, for the repeal of all anti-union laws which may be given effect by new permissive legislation and their replacement with strong legal rights, including to strike and picket; and for a clear commitment on this from Labour.

Congress agrees that the General Council will ensure that these demands are central to all campaigning around employment and workers’ rights, such as the New Deal Charter.

Mover: FBU
Seconder: BFAWU
Supporters: Unite, NASUWT, POA, TSSA

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