By guest blogger Maria Exall
The Monday evening fringe meeting organised by the United Campaign for the Repeal of the Anti-Union Laws and the Institute of Employment Rights on the Trade Union Freedom Bill was packed. Over 200 delegates and visitors met to hear the latest reportback on the Trade Union Freedom Bill campaign.
John McDonnell MP, who is one of the main organisers of the TUFB campaign in Parliament, spoke at the meeting and was received very warmly. As a candidate for the Labour leadership, he pledged to place this issue at the top of the political debate over the future direction of the Party in the coming months. Some unions, such as the CWU, are making the support (or otherwise) of the TUFB a criterion for nomination or support for candidates for the Labour leadership.
Other speakers at the meeting included Tony Woodley, General Secretary of the TGWU, who defended his union’s handling of the Gate Gourmet dispute last year but highlighted the need for legal solidarity action and the right to reinstatement as the areas where legal justice was necessary to get justice for working people.
In the debate on employment rights the next day, the motion calling for continuing support for the TUFB and for campaigning throughout the year, including a national demonstration, was overwhelmingly carried. The only opposition was from Jonathon Baume of the FDA, the senior civil servants’ union. Speakers in favour, including Bob Brow (RMT), Matt Wrack (FBU) and Dave Ward (CWU), called on the TUC to advance the case for workers’ rights without apology. The TUC General Counciol supported with reservations – mainly based on opposition to public campaigning including the demonstration.
The key issues in the coming months in the TUFB campaign are whether the UC will press for legislation that is being stonewalled by the Government but has the support of 170 Labour MPs. The pressure that individual unions can put on their supported MPs could be vital in raising the political temperature on this issue.