This Monday, hundreds of union members joined a TUC rally outside the Commons to protest against Cameron's draft Trade Union bill.
But why was this protest, against a bill that TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady rightly described as "the biggest attack in thirty years", called 2 whole months after it was first tabled in the Commons? Why was it organised on a week-day, with no call for strikes anywhere, reducing the potential turnout? And why has the TUC planned no other protest?
Despite their remonstrations, TUC leaders have shown no intention of putting up any serious resistance. In fact, haven't we heard Unite leader Len McCluskey declaring that he would be prepared to accept the new voting thresholds imposed by the bill on strike ballots, if it provided for online voting? Far from really challenging Cameron's attacks, the TUC leaders seem to be seeking some kind of implicit or explicit agreement with him!
An attack against all workers
Since when has compromising with our class enemy, without even putting up a fight, been a way of defending our collective interests?
As if Cameron's attack on the right to strike and, in fact, to join a union, was not an attack against all workers - whether unionised or not!
Why should workers tolerate a rule which says that a majority for strike action in a ballot should be ignored, because the turnout is under 50%? Why shouldn't a section of workers who are affected by an issue be able to strike over it, even if they are in a minority in the workplace as a whole? And why should we tolerate such a constraint on our right to defend our collective interests from a government which was elected by just 23.5% of all registered voters?
Likewise, why should we tolerate the legalisation of strikebreaking, included in this bill? Even Thatcher did not dare to do such a thing! Not only does it go against strikers' interests, but it also goes against the interests of agency workers, making it difficult for them to refuse to be used as strikebreakers, due to their precarious situation and lack of organisation. In this, the TUC leaders, who have never made any effort to organise these workers, bear some responsibility. If anything, this should be another reason for them to oppose this bill head-on!
And, why should workers, tolerate a so-called "Certification Officer" having full access to union members' lists? What will guarantee that these lists aren't "leaked" to the bosses - and that union members aren't sacked and blacklisted as a result, especially those considered "too militant"? Isn't this a way of legalising the past illegal private agencies which provided this kind of "service" to the bosses - from the old "Economic League" to the more recent "Consulting Agency", which kept files on over 3,000 union members in the construction industry, with the help of the Home Office's "National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit"?
No compromise with the enemy!
Yes, this is an attack against all workers. But there's an even worse aspect to it - the threat to criminalise so-called "unlawful" actions during strikes, like pickets or demonstrations which haven't been duly announced in advance so that the police and bosses can prepare for it.
This is all very ironical. When a company declares itself bankrupt by using some accounting trick - even though it and its shareholders still own considerable assets - and sacks its workforce overnight, as did the owner of the Redcar steel mill, SSI-UK, this is not considered a criminal offence despite the fact that over 2,000 workers stand to lose their livelihoods. But if workers stage a surprise protest march in support of their demands, this will be a criminal offence!
And what about when a company fails to pay the minimum wage or imposes on workers the kind of conditions which are dangerous for their health, or even their lives? Although, in theory, bosses could face criminal prosecution and jail sentences, this never happens. In very rare cases, they are sentenced to derisory fines when compared to their profits. In fact, over the past 8 years, there have been just 8 convictions for corporate manslaughter - whereas, last year alone, 142 workers died on the job!
But this is the "law of the land" - a law tailor-made for the bosses, to protect their ownership, profits and exploitation of the working class. It is the law of our class enemy. And as such, it should be opposed, without any compromise, by all means necessary! The TUC leaders may choose to resist Cameron's plans - or, more likely, decide to sit on their hands. But the day the working class decides to rise, in order to regain the ground lost, it will be despite all of these laws - and regardless of Cameron trampling all over workers' rights, today!