New attack on workers’ rights

by Daphne Liddle

AS SUPPORT mounts for the national strike of millions of public sector workers next Wednesday, the Con-Dem Coalition has unleashed another major attack on workers’ rights.

Business Secretary Vince Cable this Wednesday set out a series of proposals that will deprive workers employed in small businesses of any protection against unfair dismissal.

It is clear that the top bosses in Britain want a comprehensive reduction and restriction on the industrial tribunal system as a way of resolving industrial disputes and protecting workers’ rights.

They forget that if they remove this channel of negotiation they will leave workers with no option but to resort to strikes to settle issues of gross unfairness in the workplace.

The giant union Unite responded swiftly. The union’s general secretary Len McCluskey said: “At a time when unemployment is at a 17-year high and youth unemployment has topped a record one million, it is appalling that this Government should concentrate on making it easier to fire people, rather than getting people back to work.’

“Ministers are hell-bent on removing long-established rights at work, making dismissal easier and promoting a culture of fear in the workplace. These proposals are a charter for rogue employers and bullies....

“It is clear that David Cameron has gone into ‘Flashman’ mode and is intent on kicking working people during the worst recession for a generation — but is too scared to tackle to the real architects of the economic crisis — the bankers and the City elite.

“The Liberal Democrats, rather than holding back the Tories, are willing collaborators in this onslaught on long-established employment practices that have worked well.”

Cabinet officer Francis Maude is also threatening more attacks on workers’ rights to strike if next Wednesday’s strike goes ahead. In particular they are looking at low turnout in union election ballots. But by that logic Maude would not be in Government and Cameron would never have become Prime Minister.

But it is clear that a process of all-out class war is developing. The Con-Dem Coalition is clearly seriously rattled by the strength of support for the coming strike and further strikes.

They know their position is becoming weaker as working class unity grows. Their attacks on us are prompted by fear.

And next Wednesday will not only be a day of strike by public sector workers about pensions. It will also be a day of marches and rallies all around the country involving workers from all sectors, pensioners, people with disabilities, students and many others who are suffering under the Con-Dem cuts.

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) — a students’ organisation — is calling on all students to play an active role.

In a statement the NCAFC said: “On 30th November members of UCU, Unite, Unison and GMB unions will be on strike at universities across the UK. Student activists and Student Unions should be supporting them!”

And the NCAFC called on students to join picket lines, shut down their campus, liaise with striking unions, organise for future action, organise strike meetings before the day, organise regular exchanges of information and to demonstrate and occupy.

The General Strike was 85 years ago and those who took part in it are rightly regarded as heroes of the labour movement.

Those who take part in next Wednesday’s strike — and subsequent actions to bring this government down — will be taking part in this country’s labour movement history.

They will be able to tell their grandchildren with pride that they did not stand idly by while workers’ rights were destroyed but that they stood up to defend their class — and that the workers of Britain are not apathetic doormats who allow the ruling class to walk all over them.