Stand up to the cuts

By Daphne Liddle

PROTESTS against the cuts are breaking out all over, from the streets of Edinburgh to Portsmouth, from Cardiff to Norwich and in the heart of London lobby after lobby directed at our MPs in the House of Commons.

The organised working class is gearing up for tremendous battle and it’s looking like the early stages of the fight that killed the poll tax.

Last Wednesday trade unionists from a long list of unions came to Westminster for a rally that also focussed on winning support for John McDonnell’s Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Private Members Bill that would prevent bosses seeking legal bans on strikes on the basis of very minor technicalities.

And they are also building opposition to proposals for even more draconian anti-union laws proposed by the Confederation of British Industry and London Mayor Boris Johnson that would invalidate all strike ballots unless at least 40 per cent (Boris is calling for 50 per cent) of those eligible to vote voted for the strike.

If that rule were applied to Parliamentary elections we would have only 40 legitimate MPs.

John McDonnell’s Bill is already gaining broad support and to progress to its next stage 100 MPs need to attend Parliament for its “Second Reading” on Friday 22nd October.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “We know that there has been a new push from the bosses’ organisations, the Mayor of London and other Tory politicians since the election to try and get the Government to load the law on industrial action even further in their favour.

“We also know that the Thatcherites driving the Con-Dem administration are ideologically anti-union.

“With the cuts battle set to intensify this autumn there is no doubt that the Government and the employers will see the anti-union laws as an important weapon in trying to choke off workplace resistance to attacks on jobs and services.

“Now is the time for the trade union movement to rally round and defend the basic right to strike and the right to defend jobs, standards of living and public services. John McDonnell’s Private Members Bill is the focal point for the union fight back against the anti-union laws.”

TUC and union leaders, in a letter to the Guardian, called for mass support for McDonnell’s Bill. They said: “.... There has been a stream of rhetoric from business organisations and rightwing think-tanks on the need to reform trade union law. Yet taking strike action is always a last resort for union members and only done when they feel they have no alternative.

“Away from the political grandstanding, the reality is that British workers already have the most restrictive trade union laws in Europe, and recent court rulings have made matters even worse.”

There will be another mass union lobby of Parliament on Tuesday 19th October starting with a rally in Westminster Central Hall at 12.30pm and the Labour Representation Committee is holding an anti-cuts meeting on the 20th in the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons with speakers including Manuel Cortes (TSSA), Bob Crow (RMT), Jeremy Dear (NUJ), and Dot Gibson (National Pensioners Convention).

On Saturday 23rd October — just after David Cameron will have presented his spending review — protests will be held in major cities all around Britain under the slogan, “There is a better way” — and they are looking to be mass events.

The Cardiff event will start at noon outside City Hall. The campaign has grouped together those working in public and private sectors including council workers, rail and bus workers and unions.

President of the group, Katrine Williams, who is also chair of PCS in Wales, said: “The Government is expected to announce on 20th October the biggest cuts to services and jobs in history. Our demonstration is intended to show that workers in Wales will not sit idly by and allow our public services to be decimated and the Welsh economy to be wrecked by these vicious cuts.”

The Portsmouth 23rd October march will start at 11.30am in Guildhall Square. One of the organisers, PCS member Patrick Smyth, said: “We want this demonstration to bring together everyone who wants to defend public services.

The Edinburgh march is expected to include a 1,500-strong group of Dundee trade unionists. Unison Tayside regional officer Rory Malone said, “It is a bigger picture that is building up. A contract was agreed by the public sector and private sector unions at the TUC conference to pool all our efforts to oppose cuts and the attacks on pensions and pay.

“There is an alternative to these proposed cuts. It is a lie from the Con-Dem government to say this is the only way forward.”