Campaign for Trade Union Freedom to help build movement against anti-union laws

The Morning Star reports from CTUF's AGM

28 Sep 2023| News

The Campaign for Trade Union Freedom has pledged to help build a national labour movement demonstration against the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act.

The group voted at its AGM on Thursday to mobilise in support of a TUC Congress motion* calling for a massive campaign of opposition to the anti-union legislation.

Campaign co-chairwoman Sarah Woolley, who is also general secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union, said that the meeting had also decided to support unions calling for a special TUC Congress to explore options for combatting the Act and to offer solidarity to any union that falls foul of the “spiteful and vindictive” legislation.

Labour peer John Hendy KC told the meeting of the pernicious nature of the new law and the multi-faceted attack on the union movement that it posed.

The government said this week that doctors and nurses would be brought within the scope of the Act.

Regulations on how unions will be required to break their own strikes have not yet been published.

This article was first published in the Morning Star.

*TUC Composite Motion One
Campaign against the Minimum Service Levels (MSLs) legislation

Conference asserts that anti-trade union restrictions represent a direct attack on workers’ rights to fair pay, decent jobs and good terms and conditions.

Congress decries the fact that trade unions are subjected to draconian legislation that severely impacts on workers’ ability to organise and defend their rights at work.

Congress is concerned that increasing use of insecure, intermittent and precarious employment relationships has resulted in widespread job insecurity and denies workers access to basic employment rights, many of which are at serious risk of being further eroded.

Congress notes that not content with their complete betrayal of workers following the P&O scandal the Tory Government’s Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill now represents the biggest attack on trade union rights and values since the Taff Vale judgement against the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, which ruled unions could be sued and compelled to pay for damages for the impact of their strike action. Congress condemns the MSLs legislation.

The new Bill compels unions to instruct members to comply with work notices to cross picket lines. Members not complying can be dismissed and unions not complying lose their immunity from prosecution.

Congress notes the Bill gives the government sweeping powers to extend minimum service levels across the economy, curtailing the ability of every trade union to protect their members during the ongoing cost of living crisis and beyond.

Conference notes that in June, a tripartite ILO Committee told the Government to bring the Strikes law and other labour law into line with the UK’s obligations, consulting with social partners, and to report back by 1 September 2023.

Congress welcomes Humza Yousaf’s pledge to the STUC congress that the Scottish Government “will never issue or enforce a single work notice” under the legislation.

Congress agrees that we have no choice but to build mass opposition to the MSLs laws, up to and including a strategy of non-compliance and non-cooperation to make them unworkable, including industrial action.

Congress congratulates the unions and the TUC who took the UK Government to court and defeated new laws that allowed employers to use agency workers to break strikes. Congress agrees with the High Court that the Government acted unfairly, unlawfully, and irrationally. Unions will always act to safeguard workers’ rights.

Congress calls on the next Labour government to immediately repeal MSLs, the Trade Union Act 2016 and take urgent steps to remove other anti-union laws.

Congress pledges 100% solidarity with any trade unions attacked under these MSL laws.

Congress agrees we must use all means necessary to defeat the unjust MSLs laws and calls on the General Council to proactively seek to:

  • resist any further restrictive trade union legislation and demand
  • the repeal of the Trade Union Act 2016 and all other anti-trade union legislation;
  • stronger rights for unions to access workplaces, win recognition, and establish collective bargaining rights; and
  • the right for trade union members to vote online during industrial action ballots, and statutory elections for executive committees and general secretaries.
  • build coalitions to campaign for non-compliance and against further restrictive trade union legislation;
  • build an appropriate industrial response to defend workers’ right to strike;
    implement a campaign alongside others defending the fundamental rights of working people to resist MSLs;
  • legally challenge the Minimum Service Levels (MSLs) legislation;
  • coordinate demands from affiliates and call on employers, devolved governments, mayors, fire authorities, local authorities and other public bodies to refuse to implement the MSLs legislation and issue work notices and work with the trade union movement to render MSLs inoperable;
  • support demonstrations and hold a national march opposing the legislation and calling for repeal of the anti-union laws;
  • mobilise support for any affiliate seeking assistance, whose union and members are sanctioned for non-compliance;
  • organise a Special Congress, size to be determined, to explore options for non-compliance and resistance.