'Now more than ever we need solidarity'

Unite delegates unanimously agree on motions to fight back against Minimum Services Bill and other Tory anti-trade union legislation

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Unite delegates put forward a series of motions at Unite Policy conference on Tuesday (July 11) as part of a wider strategy to fight back against Tory anti-trade union laws, including the government’s most recent Strikes (Minimum Services) Bill, which is set to become law in a matter of weeks.

In a linked debate, delegates also discussed the Retained EU Law Act, which poses a serious threat to workers’ rights.

One of the delegates moving a motion, Jim Kelly (pictured below) of London and Eastern region, highlighted the importance of fighting back against the Tories, saying “we can’t afford to re-elect this Tory government”.

He pointed out that the trade union movement “has to be brought together”, as he also emphasised the need to hold the Labour Party leadership’s feet to the fire to ensure the party revokes all Tory anti-trade union laws once it is in power.

Unite delegate David Odalele, a rep for the homeless charity St Mungo’s, seconded one of the motions. He told of how he and his members are now on all-out, indefinite strike action — and that they need the full support of the movement to win their fight, through united demonstrations.

“This will help those of our members who are just getting into activism to know that they will be supported whenever they decide to go on strike,” he said.

After David’s intervention, he and striking St Mungo’s workers received a resounding round of applause from the delegates.

Other delegates highlighted the importance of sticking together to fight anti-trade union laws, with Unite delegate Camille Tsang (pictured below) noting, “Now more than ever we need solidarity.”

Meanwhile, Unite delegate George McDonnell noted that Unite has to fight anti-trade union laws for future generations.

“The next young person I look in the eye and they ask what did you do, do we sit back and say we did nothing? Or do we fight it?” he said. “This will affect the next generation so we’ve got to fight it.”

Unite London and Eastern delegate Kevin Parslow, also moving a composite on anti-trade union legislation, highlighted practical ways that the union movement can fight back against the new Minimum Services Bill.

He pointed out since the Bill says for example, local authorities may set minimum services, Unite can put pressure on local authorities, especially Labour ones, to refuse to say what those minimum service levels would be and in essence refuse to implement the law.

Many of those speaking in the debate said that laws have been successfully reversed before because of trade union pressure, citing the example of the Industrial Relations Act brought in by the then-Tory government in the 1970s, which was eventually overturned.

Among those who spoke of the Industrial Relations Act was Unite retired member Terry Renshaw of Wales. Terry was the youngest of the Shrewsbury 24, a group of trade unionists who were unjustly convicted after picketing in 1972, with many being forced to serve prison sentences. It would be nearly 50 years before they were exonerated.

“We fought for 47 years and we won,” he told conference. “If we fight against [unjust laws] in unity, we will win. We did it. We can all do it. You’ve got to have the resolve of unity and solidarity.”

And in a composite on the Retained EU Law Act, Carmen Simon (pictured below) from Scotland was concerned, like many, for the threat to workers’ rights.

She said, “the last thing we need is a more relaxed approach to our health and safety standards. We must be extremely vigilant with this Tory government, as they are only too keen to take away workers’ rights.”

All motions and composites were unanimously carried.

By Hajera Blagg

Pics by Mark Thomas