Defend the Right to strike, defend the RMT

Jenny Lennox argues that the latest Tory attack on workers’ rights is aimed at one union in particular.

BUSINESS SECRETARY SAJID JAVID has made significant changes to strike laws top of his agenda. Strikes involving public services would need the backing of 40% of eligible members to go ahead and agency workers could be used as scab labour to thwart industrial action.

Some in the trade union movement have talked about organising a general strike to oppose the planned changes. Good luck to them if they can organise something effective, but politically and industrially union members and the wider workforce aren’t ready for such a struggle. We need to look to the cause of this action by the Tory government so we can plan a more coherent and hopefully successful means of resisting this policy.

This attack iTubesn’t about striking NHS workers, lecturers, teachers, firefighters or civil servants. Those strikes are embarrassing, but they don’t paralyse the services – all continue to run. Worst of all, these disputes have often been defined by low turnouts in ballots and a lack of engagement by members. This is actually about a local issue, a very London-centric one, quite simply the Tube and the RMT. You don’t have to live in London long to know that a Tube strike looms large in people’s minds before the event, and can have a paralysing effect. This is embarrassing to those in power, mayor and government.

The RMT has become the bogeymen of the trade union movement, and the Tories want to put them back in their box. It is interesting that the RMT have opened up a new front against the Tories by announcing national strike action on the rail network (currently suspended), and we as a labour movement must do all we can to support them in this and future action. Only by them successfully pursuing these disputes, and by other unions working to increase turnouts in ballots, can the fightback be effective.

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