“Health workers, teachers, civil servants, and rail workers have joined each other’s picket lines and supported each other’s demands for a pay rise. Despite the icy temperatures, the spirit of workers’ solidarity has grown stronger.”
By Alex Gordon
2022 saw railway and postal workers, dockers, bus drivers and London Underground staff, teachers and university lecturers, council workers, environment and highways agency staff, nurses, ambulance drivers and call handlers, and driving instructors all take strike action to defend jobs and services, and to demand fair pay to match rampant increases in costs of food, energy, and housing.
By the end of 2022, over a million workers across Britain had taken strike action calling for wage increases to counter rising living costs.
Soon almost everyone in Britain will know someone who has been on strike or is going on strike. Except for Rishi Sunak, obviously. He admits he doesn’t know any working-class people.
In the first weeks of 2023 workers taking strike action united, to coordinate strikes against Sunak’s government of billionaires.
Health workers, teachers, civil servants, and rail workers have joined each other’s picket lines and supported each other’s demands for a pay rise. Despite the icy temperatures, the spirit of workers’ solidarity has grown stronger, the more that government ministers have dug in.
The People’s Assembly supports striking trade unionists and says, ‘Solidarity with the strikers’.
Now, Grant Shapps has proposed a Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which is intended to make strikes illegal with sanctions for unlawful strike action falling not only on trade unions, but on individual trade unionists.
Shapps’ anti-strike Bill encourages employers to sack workers who refuse to cross their own union’s picket lines in industrial disputes that they have voted for and that they support. It is an appalling, undemocratic piece of legislation from a discredited government way past its sell-by date.
At the People’s Assembly National Conference in January 2023 we reaffirmed our support to trade unions taking action to defend workers alongside local grassroots campaigns highlighting the cost-of-greed crisis by combatting profiteering and privatisation in our communities.
In particular the People’s Assembly noted that the UK has the most restrictive anti-union laws in Europe, that the introduction of ballot thresholds in 2016 was designed to tie unions up in bureaucracy and criminalise picketing and to prevent them taking exactly the kind of industrial action that we are now seeing with national strikes by rail workers, postal workers, health service and education workers, civil servants and fire and rescue service workers. The Cameron 2016 Trade Union Act has failed in its primary purpose.
In an act of revenge, a Tory government mired in corruption and economic failure has decided to double down on its authoritarian, anti-working class instincts and to legislate to make strikes illegal.
But these attacks on trade unionists and their unions are part of a continuum with other Acts of parliament forced through by this authoritarian Tory government, including the infamous Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill brought in as a response to Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
The truth is that all our liberties are under severe attack and we need to stand together or we will surely all hang separately.
We must resist authoritarian attacks on our rights to withdraw our labour and to protest. We must resist by all means at our disposal, from direct action to political action. We must demand the repeal of all anti-union laws and work to ensure the use of secure online ballots for union elections and for industrial action ballots.
This is the fight of our lives. The People’s Assembly supports the strikers.
- This article was originally published by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity on January 26th, 2023.
- Alex Gordon is the President of the RMT and an activist for the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. You can follow him on twitter here; and follow the People’s Assembly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.