Cameron underestimates the labour movement. We will fight on despite the Trade Union Bill

8th February, 2016 8:20 am

David Cameron

Teaching assistants. Cleaners. Nurses. Care workers. Lollipop ladies. Hardly a list of the people our society should want to regulate.

These are people who spend their time caring for us, serving us and saving lives. People who arrive at work before Conservative politicians wake up and who are still working long after Cameron and Osborne have gone back to Downing Street for the night.

And yet these are just some of those who will be hit by the government’s latest attack on working people, the Trade Union Bill.

This is a piece of legislation with the most ideological and partisan aims. It is intended to choke off the labour movement at a time when working people – especially those, like UNISON members, who are providing crucial public services – are under unprecedented attack from this government.

This is a law designed to cut off criticism at a time when there is much to criticise, to restrict action when so much action is necessary and remove the voices of those crying out for a fair deal and a fair shot.

In short, this is the biggest crackdown on our rights in 30 years – and goes far further than many of the Thatcher government’s worst attacks on trade unions.

For a government that always seems keen to proclaim the importance of slashing red tape for businesses, they’re incredibly keen to tie up working people in all the tape they can find, as they freeze our wages, cut our benefits and eliminate our jobs.

We won some important changes to the Bill in the House of Commons, but as I write this we don’t know whether it will become law or not, or if any amendments have been made in the House of Lords. What we do know is that, whatever happens with the Bill, this government is intent on hurting working people and undermining trade unions.

And whilst the challenges we face as a movement are great, not for the first time, the government has underestimated our great movement.

A movement that won the national minimum wage, abolished child labour and improved safety in the workplace so that injury and death are no longer an accepted risk for so many.

A movement that fought to win and improve parental leave, battled for equality legislation, won holiday and sickness entitlements and better protection of migrant workers.

A movement that started as nothing more than an idea – that working people could stand together, stand up for themselves and demand more. Decent pay, decent work and decent homes, childcare and healthcare as rights not privileges, and that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.

Whatever this government does to us, however they try to tie us down and restrict us, those founding principles will remain true. So we will fight all the battles to come. We’ll overcome whatever hurdles are placed in our way. That’s what this week’s heart unions week is all about – celebrating what trade unions do best – delivering better lives for our members and a better country for all of us to be a part of.

Dave Prentis is General Secretary of  UNISON, the public sector union. This article is part of a series to mark heartunions, the TUC week of action against the Trade Union Bill.

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