Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1119/31956

From The Socialist newspaper, 3 February 2021

Editorial of the Socialist issue 1119

Workers' rights and safety: Trade union mobilisation could force more Tory U-turns

  (Click to enlarge)

The Tories have made yet another U-turn. This time over their proposed review of employment laws and regulations post-Brexit.

The 12 Labour Party-affiliated unions had issued a statement on 'the Tory threat to our workplace rights'. This was produced ahead of a Labour-sponsored parliamentary debate on 24 January in opposition to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng's plans.

The unions' statement had promised to "fight tooth and nail to protect and extend our rights". But the statement didn't spell out a real intent to mobilise workers around a fighting programme.

The fact that this limited statement - which even right-wing trade union leaders like Christina McAnea from Unison, Paddy Lillis from USDAW, Warren Kenny from GMB and Roy Rickhuss from Community could sign up to - forced the government to retreat, gives an indication of what could be achieved if the leaders of the trade unions were to build a fighting movement to 'protect and extend our rights'.

Bosses opt out

The statement wrongly created the impression that the European Union (EU) has been the great defender of workers' rights. This conveniently forgets the anti-worker basis of many EU rules such as the posted-workers' directive, which targets national union-negotiated collective agreements, freeing up a 'race to the bottom' on pay and conditions. It also ignored the fact that some workers' rights, such as the maximum 48-hour week under the working-time directive, have long had an opt-out in the UK, delivered for the bosses by the New Labour government.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the huge potential to build a movement that could oppose and defeat any Tory plans to attack workers' rights. The fact that the Tories have retreated so quickly on these initial proposals, without such a mobilisation being developed, is a sign of their weakness. That should now be built upon to face down the offensive that the Tories and bosses are raining down on workers.

The onset of the pandemic put all trends in the labour and trade union movement to the test. In the initial phase of lockdown last March, there was an almost total collapse of the union leaderships into national unity with the Tory government and the bosses. Disputes were suspended and strikes called off. While, predictably, the right-wing of the unions led the way in this, those leaders considered to be on the left, such as Mark Serwotka in the PCS, also capitulated to this pressure. He 'parked' the union's full pay claim before the national executive committee had even had a chance to discuss it.

In September, TUC leader Frances O'Grady appeared in Downing Street alongside Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the head of the CBI bosses' federation to approve the government's plans to water down the furlough scheme. However, as one of its 20-plus Covid U-turns, the Tories were forced to extend the Job Retention Scheme until the end of this March.

Actually, it is these Tory retreats that expose the weaknesses of the government. Often it has been forced back by mobilised opposition, such as that of A-level students over exam results last summer.

But the massive mobilisation of teachers, school support staff and education workers over the New Year over schools reopening inflicted the biggest retreat to date. It also points the way forward for an explicit union-organised movement, which would have the economic and industrial weight to not only push the Tories back but to put the unions centre stage in this crisis. In this way they could become a pole of attraction for the millions of workers fighting 'tooth and nail' for their lives and livelihoods.

Workers are facing a barrage of attacks in both the public and private sectors. Already, Johnson has announced a pay freeze for public sector workers, on the back of a lost decade which has seen their incomes plummet. But the response from the unions has been virtually non-existent since this intention was announced in November last year.

While there are real obstacles due to the new Covid restrictions, the NEU education union attracted 400,000 to its online meeting against the unsafe reopening of schools. There needs to be a serious mass campaign that ties together the need to defend workers' rights with a fight against the pay freeze in the public sector and the increasing use by bullying bosses of 'fire and rehire'.

Outrageously, before its use in companies such as British Gas and British Airways, it was rolled out by the Labour council of Tower Hamlets in east London. Where was the condemnation of this by the Starmerite Labour MPs who took part in the parliamentary debate?

There are also likely to be further local authority cuts. In a public online meeting organised in the face of brutal cuts from deficit-stricken Labour-led Croydon Council, the Unison regional secretary said: "Central government has given councils no option but to cut."

It is vital that the unions, particularly those on the left, demand that the Starmer-led Labour Party nationally, and its councils, refuse to pass on any more Tory cuts. A central element of building this pressure will be united industrial action by council unions - all Labour-affiliated.

But another weapon is for them and the Labour left to refuse to be constrained by pro-cuts Labour politicians and instead support anti-cuts candidates, such as those standing under the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition banner, in the May local elections.

Councillors have a choice

Unfortunately, in the same meeting, Labour MP John McDonnell's video contribution clouded the issues, letting the right-wing Labour councillors off the hook by defining the main task as "campaigning to expose what the Tories are doing to our local councils." In contrast, Onay Kasab, Unite regional officer with responsibility for council workers in the London and Eastern region, said: "We call on every single councillor, no more cuts. No more wielding the axe on behalf of the Tory government... Instead fix budgets based on need."

The mood of workers during the second pandemic wave and the return to severe lockdown has been very different to the first. The total incompetence of the Tories, their personal flouting of strict Covid rules, the cronyism of the corona contracts and the vicious bosses' offensive, increasingly including the victimisation of union reps, have totally cut across any idea that there is a common cause.

There has been a rash of disputes, from British Gas to DHL, with strike ballots in BT and an increasing number of companies. In some of these, workers have forced the bosses back, such as at Rolls-Royce in Lancashire and, in British Airways. A collective fight against the offensive of the bosses and their Tory government will draw the millions of unionised and non-unionised workers to the trade unions. This is the best way to build on this Tory retreat and defend workers' rights, their safety and living conditions.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 3 February 2021:


Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Launching a political alternative to cuts, poverty and job losses

Why I am attending the TUSC local elections online conference

South Yorks TUSC ready for electoral fight


What we think

Workers' rights and safety: Trade union mobilisation could force more Tory U-turns


News

Socialist Students open letter to Rent Strike network

Children in care: Privatisation is not working

Multimillion-pound rental firm demands thousands from homeless asylum seeker

Covid outbreak at Kent asylum detention centre: Napier is not fit for purpose

New anti-protest law: State forces want more power to crush the protests that are coming


Workplace news

Usdaw conference stripped of democracy by leadership

Usdaw Broad Left rally brings together those campaigning for a fighting union

Strong union lead needed to stop DVLA Covid spread

HMRC: We demand a pay rise without cuts to terms and conditions

Workers fight British Gas 'fire-and-rehire' plans

Vote Steve Hedley for RMT general secretary

The NEU's 'big announcement' - lessons need to be learned

Yorkshire aerospace workers strike against pay disparity

Workplace news in brief


The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto - A guide to understanding society, and how to change it


Rolls-Royce

1971: Rolls-Royce crisis - when the Tories nationalised in order to secure the interests of British capitalism


Readers' opinion

GameStop: Billionaires hurt at their own game

The Socialist Inbox


International news

Covid 'vaccine wars' underline failure of capitalist nation states to deal with the global pandemic


Campaigns news

New members meeting in the South West - preparing for the battles to come

Why I rejoined the Socialist Party

Help us raise the funds to fuel the working-class fightback

Save our square: we need social housing and public services

Stop Labour council's eviction of Stratford Circus arts centre


 

Home   |   The Socialist 3 February 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Socialist:

triangleEast London Socialist Party: Cuba protests - what do they represent?

triangleEast London Socialist Party: Defend a woman's right to choose

triangleScottish socialist breaks running record

triangleSelling the Socialist

triangleThousands march to Reclaim Pride

Tory:

triangleUnite to fight Tory pay insults

triangleReaders' comments

triangleKeep the Universal Credit uplift

triangleWe need funds to fight Tory NHS attacks

Trade union:

triangleNew left NEC meets - Organise the fight back now

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: Q&A on trade union issues

triangleFight to save our NHS

Union:

triangleYouth Fight for Jobs is officially relaunched

triangleFight Freeports to stop bonfire of workers' rights

Workers:

triangleIsrael: Hospital ancillary workers' strike suspended

The Socialist:

triangleWhy I joined the Socialist Party

Labour:

triangleTower Hamlets Labour backs Tory cuts

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

28/7/21

London

London floods: Privatisation and heavy rain are a dangerous mix

28/7/21

Labour

Labour expulsions confirm need for new mass workers' party

28/7/21

Asylum

Nationality and borders bill

28/7/21

Pay

Unite to fight Tory pay insults

28/7/21

Covid

'Pingdemic' exemptions

28/7/21

Child poverty

Tories and Labour fail on child poverty

14/7/21

Covid

Trade unions must continue the fight for Covid safety

14/7/21

Benefits

Keep the Universal Credit uplift

14/7/21

NHS

Kick out the privatisers - Fight for a 15% Pay rise

14/7/21

Covid

We cannot trust this government over Covid

14/7/21

Lgbtq

LGBTQ+ workers' charter

14/7/21

NHS

Scrap the privatising health and care bill

14/7/21

Tories

Tories threaten to axe free prescriptions for older workers

14/7/21

Poverty

Defend the triple lock - Fight to end poverty pensions

14/7/21

Wealth

Wealth chasm widens

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999