Published 25th September 2019.
At this year’s hectic Labour Party conference, most Free Our Unions activists were absorbed in other campaigning – around the Green New Deal, Grenfell and fire safety, migrants’ rights, left anti-Brexit campaigning, among other issues – but the campaign was very much present.
In addition to distributing our literature and making new links and contacts, our demands and arguments were raised successfully in a number of debates.
The most important highlights:
NPF reference back
Brighton Pavilion CLP moved to reference back part of the National Policy Forum ‘Economy, Business and Trade’ report about the importance of unions (see here, p44). Brighton Pavilion pointed out: “This is inadequate. The 2017 Conference unanimously passed a policy repealing the anti-trade union laws implemented by the Conservative governments in the 1980s and also the 2016 Trade Union Act… This has so far not been widely reported or noticed. The policy document should reflect Labour Party policy and state clearly the importance of introducing strong legal rights to join, belong and recruit others to a union, to strike and to picket freely including in solidarity with other workers…”
Conference voted to reference back, officially demanding what the FBU raised without a formal reference back last year.
Migrants’ rights motion
The motion on migrants’ rights overwhelmingly passed on the last day of conference advocated “scrapping anti-union laws to support workers organising for improved conditions and wages”, adding: “Migrant workers are already central to trade union campaigns beating low pay and exploitation, in spite of prevailing attitudes and Tory legislation.”
Green New Deal motions
Both the two Green New Deal motions passed by the conference contained the following absolutely clear commitment: “In power Labour will… repeal all anti-union laws”, explicitly motivating this on the need for workers to be able to take action over the climate (ie abolition of the ban on political strike action). This is the first time – or strictly, first and second! – that Labour conference has specifically used the word “all” in this context.
All these interventions originated with people who have been involved with or supported FOU. They make Labour conference’s position on the anti-union laws and the right to strike even clearer, building on the policy passed in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Yet, frustratingly, in his speech to Labour conference, Jeremy Corbyn once again committed only to repealing the 2016 Trade Union Act. There is a lot of work to be done!