RMT says: we won’t comply with new anti-strike laws

The recent AGM of the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers passed several motions on resisting anti-union laws. These reaffirmed RMT’s strong opposition to all legal restrictions on the right to organise and strike, both existing and proposed, and committed the union to continue working with campaigns including Free Our Unions.

Crucially, in the face of proposed legislation to impose “minimum service requirements” during transport workers’ strikes, the AGM policy commits RMT to refusing to comply with setting the minimum service levels. Moving one of the motions, AGM delegate and Free Our Unions co-organier Daniel Randall said: “This union exists to organise strikes, not sabotage them.”

We reproduce one of the motions passed below. See also this report in the Morning Star.

This Annual General Meeting notes:

• The Tories’ policy of imposing minimum service requirements during industrial action in the transport sector, which will restrict transport workers’ ability to beat the bosses through strike action, impacting on our pay, conditions and lives.
• This attack demands a large scale, assertive campaign from the RMT and other transport unions alongside united resistance across the labour movement. It is an attack on transport workers and workers’ organisation in general.
• The 2016 Trade Union Act and various laws dating back to the 1980s mean Britain already has what Tony Blair proudly called ‘the most restrictive union laws in the western world’. This further restriction on workers’ organisation is an issue of democratic rights. It indicates that there is an authoritarian flavour to the Conservative government under Boris Johnson.

This AGM further notes the RMT’s existing policy in favour of campaigning for the repeal of all anti-union laws and for the right to strike, reaffirmed by RMT’s support for Free Our Unions in 2019 and by RMT’s ongoing support for other campaigns active around these issues, including the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and the National Shop Stewards Network. This AGM notes that activists from Free Our Unions, the National Shop Stewards Network, and other trade union bodies are working together to boost campaigning across the labour movement to defeat this attack and win trade union freedom.

This AGM further notes the successful training event on understanding and confronting anti-union legislation organised by the London Transport Regional Council on 22 February [2020].

This AGM further notes that, regrettably, International Labour Organisation guidance suggests that minimum service laws are permissible where unions have the opportunity to be involved in negotiations to set the minimum service level. However, the guidance goes on to say that, should agreement not be reached, courts can set a minimum service level, therefore ultimately handing power to a legal system which is structurally biased in favour of the bosses.

This AGM the believes that, should minimum service levels under the terms of potential new laws be determined by negotiation between employers and unions, RMT should not participate in such negotiations, as to do so would force us to be complicit in instructing some of our own members to work during strikes.

This AGM resolves:

• To continue supporting the activity of Free Our Unions and other campaigns promoting trade union freedom.
• To participate in campaign activities organised across the labour movement to resist this law.
• To roll out the London Transport Regional Council training event on fighting the anti-union laws nationally.

This AGM further resolves:

• To call a national demonstration to resist the law.
• To approach other transport unions to collaborate with us on planning this demonstration.
• To demand that the Labour Party actively opposes the new law, and asserts its agreed conference policy of supporting the repeal of all anti-union laws, and call on it cosponsor and co-organise this demonstration.
• To resource local Branches and Regional Councils to actively mobilise members to attend this demonstration.
• To adopt a policy of non-complicity in setting minimum service levels.

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