On 18 March, Parliament began debating a new bill which could remove the right to strike for some civil servants.
The Crime and Courts Bill would prevent staff employed by the National Crime Agency (NCA) from striking. The ban would affect 3,500 members of the civil service union PCS.
Many of the workers affected are immigration and customs officers, people whose work frequently involves state violence against immigrants and asylum seekers. Their jobs are ones which socialists want to see radically reformed and repurposed entirely. But their right to withdraw their labour is what creates the potential for such transformations; to remove it will only entrench these workers further into a self-conception as state functionaries equivalent to police or soldiers.
The strike ban would also set a hugely dangerous precedent for the labour movement. Which essential public service workers are next in line? Firefighters? Health workers? Teachers?
Left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell proposed an amendment to the Bill at the Parliamentary Committee stage to remove the ban. He said: “This is an unnecessary and unwelcome political device that is being used by the government to test the water around their future policies on trade union and employment rights in this country.
“If the clauses are accepted by the House — and certainly if they are accepted by my party — on this occasion, this will be used as an example in other areas.”
Labour MPs on the Committee shamefully abstained, rather than opposing the ban on the right to strike.
Affiliated trade unions must demand that Labour MPs vote against this Bill, and any other attempts to attack workers’ rights to take industrial action.