David Cameron is laying plans to finish the work that Thatcher started in her attempts to break the trade union movement. The Tories pernicious Trade Union Bill due to have its second reading next week, is worse than many thought.
The bill sets out a number of proposals that will limit the ability of union members to challenge their employer when disputes can not be settled through negotiation and restricts the ability of unions and public sector employers to settle disputes amicably through good industrial relations.
But true to form it is the lowest paid and most exploited of workers that will have their rights curtailed by this anti-worker legislation. If the bill is passed in its entirety it will give rights to employers to bring in agency workers to cover the work of strikers. This poses a greater threat to low skilled workers such as cleaners, porters, refuse and care workers; workers who are traditionally the lowest paid.
Those workers too who are in many cases not protected by collective bargaining agreements between unions and employers. With little exception, workers employed by the public, energy and transport sector are covered by agreements ensuring that changes to terms and conditions, redundancies and pay rises need to be negotiated with the recognised trade unions. These agreements act as a buffer between workers and their employer.
It is the huge swathes of predominantly low skilled workers within these sectors who have been outsourced to private contractors that immediately lose the protection of union recognition and for which the bill will make it easiest for employers to arrange scab labour for.
Not only have we now reached a point where it is acceptable for multinational, tax dodging companies to make a profit out of our public sector by driving down the pay of workers and cutting the services provided but we are soon to be at the point where the very workers that provide these services are to be robbed of their right to stake their claim on a slice of the pie.
The question of how the labour movement should respond is one that needs much more discussion in union branches, the Labour Party and within grass roots activists organisations. A programme of political education amongst union members could be rolled out which aims to increase workers political and industrial confidence looking at how we actually build and organise for industrial action.
We need to ensure that our MP's will be in Parliament on the day the law is being passed to vote against the bill alongside the SNP and consider whether we can lobby rebel Tory MP's who understand the draconian nature of this bill. The union movement could also be calling for a mass demonstration on this day.
Building a Labour Party fit to respond to this challenge will also be essential. If Jeremy Corbyn is elected as leader of the Labour Party we will have a greater chance of providing a real opposition to this bill and rallying a movement to oppose it; building strong, grass roots led CLP's ready to offer solidarity to trade union members.
The bill will also include extensions on the amount of notice unions have to give for calling a strike, increasing the turnout in ballots, restrictions on the ability to organise picket lines and demonstrations, removing the ability of unions to deduct member's subs from their wages and placing huge restrictions on unions funding of political campaigning, including the Labour Party.
The union movement needs to be proud of the huge achievements we have won. Many of the rights workers have today were won through strike action: equal pay for women, health and safety rights, the 8 hour day.
The right to strike is a human right. A worker withdrawing their labour is one of the most powerful things they can do to get better treatment in the workplace - the link between strong trade unions and the driving down of inequality is well documented. This scabs charter seeks to further strip workers of their ability to organise collectively, destroying any hope that a worker may have of ending their exploitation.
Trade union members are nurses, teachers and teaching assistants, fire fighters, care workers and refuse collectors. All men and women who are more than deserving of the right to fight for something better.