Free Our Unions challenges Labour leadership candidates

Submitted by AWL on 29 January, 2020 - 9:02 Author: Daniel Randall
right to strike

The Free Our Unions campaign has made plans to renew its activity in 2020, following an organising meeting in London on 8 January.

It is circulating a new statement, calling for united resistance across the labour movement to the threat of new anti-strike laws.
Signatories include Michelle Rodgers, president of rail union RMT, Ian Hodson, president of the Bakers’ union, UCU general secretary Jo Grady, Labour MPs Nadia Whittome and Clive Lewis, and three RMT branches (Bakerloo, Finsbury Park, and East London Rail).

The Public and Commercial Services union also backed the statement, following a vote at its National Executive Committee.
On the basis of this statement, Free Our Unions plans to approach other campaigns and groups active around similar issues, including the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom, Institute for Employment Rights, the Trade Union Coordinating Group, and the National Shop Stewards Network. Free Our Unions is working with other labour movement bodies, including Islington and Lambeth Trades Councils, to organise a broad organising meeting on 11 February at the Lambeth Unison offices.

Free Our Unions has also written to all Labour leader and deputy leader candidates, requesting that they commit to supporting the policy passed at successive Labour conferences, for the repeal of all anti-union laws, not just the most recent, and to supporting resistance to the Tories’ new anti-strike law. Only Clive Lewis committed to the pledge, prior to dropping out of the contest.

The campaign is also cosponsoring a Trade Union Bloc on the 14 February youth climate strike, called by the PCS branch at the Department for Business Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). BEIS is a key department in terms of climate change policy, and is also the government department where the Tories’ new laws restricting strikes will be developed. Outsourced workers at BEIS recently struck to win living wages and greater equality with directly-employed staff.

Free Our Unions has previously issued joint statements with the UK Student Climate Network emphasising the links between the fight against climate change and the need for free trade unions, able to strike over political issues.

Free Our Unions supporters working in the transport industry, targeted by the Tories’ proposed ban on “all-out strikes”, as well as workers in other “essential services” to which such a ban may be extended, will also be writing testimonies about their experiences of striking, and what the effect of the new laws would be on their ability to defend and improve their conditions.

• Daniel Randall is RMT Bakerloo branch assistant chair, writing here in a personal capacity.

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