Thirty motions have been submitted to Labour Party conference (25-29 September, Brighton) from trade unions and Constituency Labour Parties specifically demanding that the party commits to “repealing all anti-union laws”. In the workers’ rights section, three of the eight motions submitted go into detail on this and are modelled closely on text from Free Our Unions, particularly the submission we made jointly with the Fire Brigades Union to the policy primary of Momentum.
We emphasise the word “all”. The figure of thirty does not include several other motions which talk ambiguously about “repealing anti-union laws” or similar, interesting and welcome as those are in terms of indicating shifts in the debate.
You can read all the motions submitted to the conference here.
In the “Green New Deal” section, the Fire Brigades Union (see p79 in document above) and the Bakers’ Union (p93) have both submitted motions which say: “Conference resolves to support… repealing all anti-trade union laws, so workers can freely take industrial action over wider social and political issues, from public safety to climate change”.
The FBU has also promoted this demand through Labour for a Green New Deal. As a result, 22 Constituency Labour Parties (p154 and p168) have submitted Green New Deal motions which say: “Resolves to support… repealing all anti-trade union laws”.
Those 22 Green New Deal motions were ruled out by the Conference Arrangements Committee but then reinstated following protests. The “Build Back Fairer” motions from Newark CLP (p158) and Newcastle East CLP (p166) have unfortunately stayed ruled out. They say: “Conference agrees that Labour will [campaign] for… repeal of all anti-union laws”.
In the workers’ rights section, the motion from Derby South CLP (p232) “calls the Labour Party to work closely with the TUC, STUC, and individual unions to campaign for… repealing all anti-trade union laws”.
Then there are the three motions focused specifically on repealing the anti-union laws:
The motion from Aberconwy CLP (p237) says: “Conference commits to repeal all of the Conservatives’ anti-union laws and further commits to their replacement with a progressive code of labour rights using the proposals set out in Labour’s 2017 and 2019 Manifestos as the starting point. This commitment includes repealing anti-strike laws, such as the ban on striking in solidarity with other workers or over political issues; they prevent workers from taking action directly over issues such as climate change, equalities and, the NHS. Conference denounces the Tories’ plan to impose new restrictions on transport workers through a minimum service requirement that may well be extended to other groups of workers.”
The motion from Macclesfield CLP (p239) says: “Conference notes TUC policy that workers should 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. Conference reaffirms the commitment to repealing all anti-union laws to ensure that workers have power in their workplaces. This commitment includes repealing anti-strike laws, such as the ban on striking in solidarity with other workers or over political issues – an affront to democracy. These laws prevent workers from taking action directly over issues such as climate change, equality issues, and the NHS. Conference denounces the Tories’ plan to impose new restrictions on transport workers through a minimum service requirement, and any future extension of this plan to other groups of key workers. Conference resolves that the party will… campaign for the repeal of all anti-trade union laws; oppose the introduction of any new anti-trade union laws; and that the next Labour government will repeal all anti-trade union laws.”
The motion from North East Bedfordshire CLP (p240) says: “The pandemic, in which many workers have needed to take fast, decisive action to guarantee safety for themselves, their loved ones, and the wider community, without going through an arduous bureaucratic process, has underscored the need to scrap all anti-strike laws. So does the wave of job cuts and attacks on terms and conditions (e.g., fire and rehire). Other anti-strike laws, such as the ban on workers striking in solidarity with other workers, and on striking over political issues, are also an affront to democracy. They prevent workers from taking action directly over issues such as defence of the NHS, climate change, or racism. Conference denounces the Tories’ plan to impose new restrictions on transport workers’ strikes through a minimum service requirement. It seems likely they will extend this to other groups of key workers. Conference notes TUC Congress 2020 agreed to organise a special conference¦ on opposing the antiunion laws and a national demonstration. The party will encourage CLPs to support and get involved in these when they become possible. Conference reaffirms the party’s opposition to all anti-union and anti-strike legislation, its commitment to repealing all such laws when next in government, and to legislating to enshrine workers’ rights to, as per TUC policy: 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.”
These last three motions are closely modelled on texts promoted by Free Our Unions, and we know our supporters were involved more or less directly in formulating and promoting some of the other motions too.
Labour Party conference passed to policy repeal all the anti-trade union laws in 2015 and 2017 and in passing in motions on other issues in 2018 and 2019 (see here). We should build on those votes by passing strong and detailed policy this year, and demanding the party campaigns for it as part of the “New Deal for Workers” it has started to talk about.