UNISON national conference 2019: ‘Free Our Unions’ motion

Published June 2019.

The following motion was passed at the national conference of public sector union Unison in June 2019, after being submitted by the Free Our Union campaign‘s founder-branch, Lambeth Unison. A similar motion was also submitted by Newcastle City Unison.


Free our unions – repeal the anti-union laws

1. Conference believes that repeal of the anti-trade union laws and their replacement with strong legal rights for workers and unions, including a strong right to strike, is a decisive question for our movement.

2. These laws scupper or undermine more and more struggles; in high profile national cases – eg the PCS pay ballot – but also in numerous smaller disputes. They make the kind of workplace-level organising and campaigning without which trade unionism will not revive difficult. As anti-union laws have become consolidated and new layers been added, the labour movement at various levels has become tightly hemmed in.

3. Moreover, facing the challenges which could beset a radical Labour government with workers’ hands still tied behind our backs would be dangerous. Our ability to organise and take action will be decisive to the delivery of serious changes, and to going forward from there to transform society.

4. We believe that without the ability to take industrial action freely, other reforms such as expanded collective bargaining may be difficult to achieve and in any case will not necessarily deliver the shift in power workers need.

5. We therefore resolve that UNISON will campaign clearly, vocally and pro-actively 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.

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