Trade Unions

The challenge for the unions

Issue section: 

One of the pillars of the Tory government's agenda is the Trade Union Bill. This is an ideological attack aimed primarily at the public sector, and it must be resisted, writes Ralph Darlington.

The Tories’ Trade Union Bill threatens the most sweeping and radical tightening of the rules on industrial action and trade union representation since the Thatcher era of the 1980s. The restrictive measures could potentially rebalance power in the workplace, reduce the capacity of unions to represent their members at work and undermine the basic right to strike.

Strategies to defend our unions

Issue section: 
Author: 

The Tories' election victory has provoked moves towards 'doing politics differently'. Shaun Doherty stresses how workers' confidence to fight back lies in industrial struggle.

In April 1974 I attended my first union meeting at a north London comprehensive school. The NUT rep, a member of the Communist Party, read out a request for support for a demonstration in work time protesting at the jailing of Ricky Tomlinson and Des Warren — the Shrewsbury Two building workers. More in hope than expectation I suggested we support it. To my surprise there was a near unanimous vote to take unofficial solidarity strike action in support of the demonstration. I thought, “Yes, this is what unions are about.”

Different aspirations

Issue section: 
Issue: 

Class is often the missing element in politics, and when it is raised, it is in terms of suffering or aspiration, rather than power.

A quarter of a century ago socialist journalist Paul Foot observed, “When the Labour Party was first formed, and had to win votes from the Liberals, politics for Labour Party people was saying what you believed and persuading people to vote for it. Today, stricken by psephology, politics for Labour is finding out what most people believe and pretending to agree with them.”

Trade union density in Britain

Issue section: 
  • According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) there were 6.5 million trade union members in the UK in 2013. That’s well below the 13.1 million in 1979.
  • Union membership across the UK workforce now stands at 25.6 percent. We also know that the number of union reps is well down from its high point in the mid-1980s.
  • In 2013 in the private sector just 14.4 percent of workers were in a union. But membership in the private sector did rise by 7 percent from 2010 to 2013 — up to 2.6 million members.

A new mood to resist

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

Teachers, firefighters, council workers and health workers are all moving to either strike or hold ballots for strikes. Socialist Review looks at the shift in mood and argues that any strikes will be very political.

Suddenly the logjam could be broken. The announcement that Unison members in health and local government in England will be balloted over pay, plus a decision by the National Union of Teachers' (NUT) conference to call a further one-day strike in the summer term and the move for a new round of strikes by firefighters in early May mark a step change on the industrial front.

Why read 'Left Wing' Communism

Issue section: 
Issue: 

In August 1914 the Second International grouping of socialist parties failed its most important test with catastrophic consequences.

Nearly all the leaders of European socialism collapsed into chauvinism, supporting their own nations' interests in an imperialist war which cost the lives of tens of millions of workers.

One of the few parties to remain against the war throughout was the Bolsheviks in Russia. The experience of war and disillusionment with their leaders led to the radicalisation of workers and soldiers.

Fighting Spirit

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

Julie Sherry draws out the wider lessons of the spate of local disputes.

There is a frustrating contrast between the intensifying assault on workers by the government and employers and the lack of coordinated national resistance led by the unions. Yet in recent months we have seen a spate of militant and determined local strikes - some of which have won serious victories - that point to the potential for a wider fightback.

The successful strike by Hovis workers in Wigan last September, which defeated an attempt by bosses to introduce zero hours contracts, has not been an isolated example.

Union free school no more

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

The strike at STEM6 Academy in north London against zero hours contracts and for union recognition shows that if you get organised and fight hard you can win.

Early in October 2013 a message arrived at the Islington NUT office from a teacher at the newly opened STEM6 Academy telling us that she had never been a union rep before and asking for our support in negotiating teachers' terms and conditions.

The three months which followed saw her lead an often bitter fight which, although taking place in a small workplace, has won a big victory with major implications for other free schools, as well as important lessons for workers facing nasty anti-union employers.

US workers: from despair to victory

Issue section: 
Issue: 

After years of vicious repression, US workers rose in 1934 in a series of magnificent struggles, transforming the nation's industrial landscape.

John Newsinger reviews a new book about one of the most significant, that in Minneapolis.

In the aftermath of the First World War the US labour movement suffered a succession of crushing defeats that were to leave it on its knees throughout the 1920s. A countrywide "open shop" campaign saw union organisation broken, driven out of whole industries, and militants and activists sacked and blacklisted.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Trade Unions