The government's Trade Union Bill represents an assault on the last bastion of opposition to neo-liberalism a crowded meeting at Learie Constantine Centre heard last night. The meeting, organised by Brent Central Labour Party and Brent Trades Union Council, heard from John Burgess of Barnet Unison, Michael Brady of Unite the Resistance, Ian Hodson of the Bakers' union BFAWU and Hank Roberts of the ATL. Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central rounded off the discussion with an account of current events in Parliament.
Although they addressed the issue from different perspectives all contributors emphasised the seriousness of the attack on trade union rights and its potential impact on conditions of employment and social justice.
John Burgess, who is currently standing for election as General Secretary of Unison LINK outlined the exemplary Unison campaign in Barnet against the council's privatisation agenda which will see most services out-sourced. He said that he'd had a meeting with Muhammed Butt, Labour leader of Brent Council, to tell him not to get into bed with Barnet Council.
Michael Brady spoke of the need to put words into action and for direct action against unjust laws as soon as any one union or group of workers fell victim to the laws. This was echoed by Ian Hodson who said they 'can't put all of us in prison'. He said the right to withdraw our labour is what makes the duifference between a worker and a slave.
From the floor, Peter Murry, Secretary of the Green Party Trade Union Group, read out Caroline Lucas' statement denouncing the Bill as a 'savage and vindictive assault on UK employment rights' and underlying her willingness to take part in non-violent direct action if necessary to challenge an unjust law. Dawn Butler remarked that she did not want to end up in prison but clearly saw that as a possibility of the law went through.
Hank Roberst said, 'We must never underestimate the ruthlessness of these people' and went on to give the context of the assault i education where first the government had bribed schools to become academies, then threatened them, then forced indiivudual schools to seek sponsors and were now trying to force all schools to become academies. The final destination was for schools to be ru for profit.
In a contributionfrom the floor I spoke about the need to be aware of, and build solidarity, over other attempts to curb rights in the Counter Extremism Bill, Prevent Strategy, Extremism Disruption Orders and plans to repeal the Human Rights Act. The Trade Union Bill was part of a wider strategy to use the label of Extremist against those challenging the governemnt and turn us all into 'Domesticated Moderates'.
There will be a lobby of parliament on the TU Bill on Monday November 2nd. Details below:
For those who can't make the lobby there will be an 'After Work' protest on Mondat at 6pm in Parliament Square. Organised by the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group the speakers will include Matt Wrack (FBU General Secretary), Christine Blower (NUT General Secreary), Steve Gillian (POA General Secretary) Jo Stevens MP, Lisa Cameron MP and Natalie Bennett (Leader, Green Party).