Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/353/5842
Blair's War on Workers' Rights
WHY ARE so many angry workers telling their trade unions to cut their links with New Labour? Well, look no further than Tony Blair's comments on workers' rights and the proposed European Union (EU) constitution.
Thatcher's government brought in vicious anti-union laws in Britain over 20 years ago - the vast majority of them have not been repealed by Blair and Co. The right to strike is fundamental to workers and their unions.
Before last weekend, Blair was talking of vetoing the EU constitution unless the other 24 member states say that the Charter of Fundamental Rights (being adopted as part of the constitution) won't give workers back the right to strike. He said: "We will not allow the charter to open up interference with Britain's labour laws and will not agree the constitution until we are sure they are safeguarded."
Article III-67 of the EU constitution openly says: "The Member States and the (European) Union shall act in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition". The constitution is a bosses' charter and it will be used to cut workers' wages to produce a cheap labour 'competitive' economy.
But the trade unions in Europe have used their strength to ensure that the right to strike is enshrined in European law. The European Court of Justice might have the power to overrule Thatcher's anti-union laws.
Blair was pushing for assurances that unions could not appeal to the Court of Justice to have particular strikes made legal. The bosses' Confederation of British Industry (CBI) told Blair that it couldn't support him in the upcoming referendum unless this was made clear - and who does Blair listen to? The employers.
Blair's attitude towards workers is shown by his warning that "We will not yield to any inflationary pressures, any unaffordable wage demands or any short term quick fixes."
The top bosses such as CBI director Digby Jones, while still moaning about workers' rights threatening Europe's competitiveness, gave the new constitution a cautious thumbs up. The working class should give it the thumbs down.
In The Socialist 26 June 2004:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party features