Discussion: unions must call national demo against new anti-strike laws

By a Free Our Unions supporter

After months of mainly silence or bullish dismissiveness, unions have started to sound the alarm about the Tories’ new proposals for a “minimum service” law, and at least nod to the need for protest. Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack has called for a “mass movement of resistance”, and rail and transport union RMT has called an emergency protest (Monday 16 January, 6pm, Downing Street).

It’s a start but we need much more. Unions should call a national demonstration.

We need to bury the consoling notion that the introduction of such a law will lead to mass protests and unrest at some unspecified point in the future, after it has passed. It might, but we shouldn’t bank on it – and the time to protest is now. We need to bury the idea that such laws don’t really matter, because unions will just work harder to get over them. The Tories are introducing these new restrictions for a reason – just as they had reason to introduce all the previous restrictions. Of course we should work to get over and round the restrictions, but they do make a difference every day. We need to demand their abolition, through repeal of the anti-union laws.

We need mass protests now to stop the new law (and re-raise the idea of abolishing the other anti-union laws). Even if we fail to stop it, the more and the more vigorous our protests, the more likely we will get mass protest, defiance and determined industrial action in the future. (In 1972, when strikes defeated and rendered inoperative the Industrial Relations Act, they came after very big union demonstrations before it passed.)

We need a stream of local actions, protests, meetings and events. We need the message of protest against this new law, and all anti-union laws, to be woven into the messaging of ongoing strikes and demonstrations. We also need national action to show the government (and, in a different way, the Labour Party) we are serious. That’s why we need a national demonstration.

I mean a national demonstration specifically about the issue of the new anti-strike law (obviously it can say other things too, but that should be the clear and central focus), in London, on a Saturday, soon. I mean a serious attempt to mobilise tens of thousands.

Unions should call such a demonstration. If it comes to it, even just one union would do, obviously working as widely as possible with bits of unions and other organisations.

We should agitate in our unions, Labour Parties and other organisations for this to happen urgently.

Here’s a suggestion for a motion for union branches and other bodies:

Call a national demonstration against the new anti-strike law!

1. The seriousness of the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which would ban all-out strikes in a range of important sectors (not just transport).
2. That this comes on top of over a dozen anti-strike and anti-union laws passed since 1980.

1. That we need a flowering of local action to stop the Bill, and national action too.
2. That unions should call an urgent national demonstration specifically on this issue, in London, on a Saturday, making a serious attempt to mobilise at least tens of thousands.

1. To discuss what action we can take locally, by ourselves and working with other unions.
2. To call on our union to call a national demonstration to stop the anti-strike Bill, in London, on a Saturday, soon, working with other unions as much as possible.
3. To call for, and push for our union and the whole movement to call for, repeal of all the anti-union laws.

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