Organise and inspire each other to resist draconian Tory attacks – Apsana Begum MP


“It is important that we recognise that the unacceptable pay offers that have prompted unprecedented industrial action are set in the context of over a decade of low pay and the brutality of austerity.”

By Apsana Begum MP

It is another year, and another draconian authoritarian piece of Tory legislation.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill proposes to give the Business Secretary the power to set minimum service levels during strikes in key sectors, with employers instructing unions via “work notices” how many workers will be forced to work on strikes days to meet that level.

In short, this is a direct attack on the right to strike.

In fact, current laws already restrict the rights of workers to join and participate in trade unions. Just last year trade unions launched a joint legal challenge after the Government made changes to regulations last year that allow the use of agency workers to cover official industrial action.

The planned new “Serious Disruption Prevention Orders” in the Public Order Bill are likely to be used to target union officials who regularly attend and organise pickets.

Likewise, the Retained European Union (EU) Law (Revocation and Reform) and the Bill of Rights Bill are further threats to workers’ rights.

Not only do the Tories continue to criminalise and victimise working people, but their increasingly chilling authoritarianism is also evocative of repression in countries the UK regularly criticises.

Rather than addressing the legacy of wars and war crimes, the Tories’ Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act decriminalises abuses being committed overseas.

Despite the unfolding horror of the Spy Cops scandal, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Act now authorises undercover operatives to commit what would otherwise be criminalised offences with impunity.

The Judicial Review Act 2021 scrapped vital safeguards that protect often marginalised people and the Nationality and Borders Act attacked the rights of people fleeing war, persecution, and torture.

The draconian Policing, Crime and Sentencing Act is an insult to the global Black Lives Matter movement and the widespread concern about misogyny, racism, state violence and accountability.

And why are people being punished and scapegoated for simply trying to survive?

The truth is that it is the Tories who have run the economy in to the ground.

It is the Tories who continue to put all our futures at risk by prioritising the destruction and exploitation of big business and the super-rich.

It is important that we recognise that the unacceptable pay offers that have prompted unprecedented industrial action are set in the context of over a decade of low pay and the brutality of austerity.

Things are extremely hard. These are very tough times. Despite profits being made by the wealthy, everyday workers are on the breadline and people have no choice but to strike.

And so, we face the struggle of our lives – of a generation.

We must stand up for the rights of workers to defend their pay and working conditions and this includes defending the right to strike.

Workplace organising is the best way to achieve fair pay, a safer workplace environment, to feel freer to express one’s opinion and to have one’s rights realised.

When thousands of workers were being pressured to return to their jobs even when they were still at risk of spreading covid-19 or were being forced to work in unsafe conditions or were being fired and rehired on worse conditions, it was trade unions and trade unionists all over the country that stepped up.

But more than this, there can be no true democracy without trade unionism – a successful and fair economy cannot be created without the full involvement of its workforce.

The message to everyone must be clear: join a union if you are not already a member and support workers on picket lines.

Because there is a fightback.

From the growing wave of pay struggles and industrial action to the rising sweep of climate activism to anti racist mobilisation – I am lifted by the heroism of all those who are standing up for their rights.

We must organise and inspire each other. And at the end of the day, it is this solidarity that can keep us going despite facing great adversity.

It is this solidarity that empowers us to collectively reach, with hope in our hearts, a better future for all.

Featured image: Apsana Begum joins the Tower Hamlets NEU picket on February 1st, 2023. Photo credit: Apsana Begum MP/Twitter

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