On the evening of Monday 30 January, trade unions, human rights groups and justice campaigners are joining forces to protest against what one union leader has called “a historic attack on democratic rights”. Given the increasing stakes, it could be another step towards the first UK general strike since 1926:
🚨 EMERGENCY PROTEST 🚨
Monday will see one of the biggest attacks on democratic rights in British history.
On the same day, the government will try to take away our rights to strike and protest.
Join us to fight back.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
— Enough is Enough (@eiecampaign) January 28, 2023
Enough is Enough
The protest is set to take place on the same day that two pieces of legislation come before parliament. Campaign group Enough is Enough said in a press release:
The House of Commons will debate the Anti-Strike Bill, which aims to strip frontline workers of their right to strike; at the same time, the House of Lords will debate the Public Order Bill, which would severely limit the right to protest.
Enough is Enough notes that the protest will take place at 6pm in Westminster – opposite Downing Street. Among others, it will feature the presence of the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom with the support of human rights organisation Liberty, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), the Communication Workers Union (CWU), the University and College Union (UCU), the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), and campaign group NHS Workers Say No. Enough is Enough also notes that the protest will feature:
frontline workers speaking about their opposition to the new laws, passed just two years after they were applauded as pandemic ‘heroes’ in the same place. RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch and FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack will also take to the stage to oppose what they argue are attempts to make effective trade unionism illegal in Britain.
Children’s author Michael Rosen, Liberty’s campaign officer Charlie Whelton and activists from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign will be among a wide range of speakers condemning the latest attacks on workers’, civil and democratic rights.
In the Enough is Enough press release, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said:
Working people are the defenders of democratic rights and always have been. Ordinary people must have a right to make meaningful decisions in their workplace, their communities, and society. That wasn’t given to us. The right to strike and the right to protest are fundamental civil liberties. If we can’t resist these attacks, I fear for our future as a working class but also as citizens. We will live in a society where freedoms and rights are severely restricted.
Lynch has won the support of many in the UK – in part due to his ability to calmly eviscerate his critics:
"I'm a more popular person than many of the politicians in this room, unfortunately for the public."
Big Mick Energy. pic.twitter.com/MvVkKfCRmN
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) January 14, 2023
— Brian H (@Brian_1024_) January 24, 2023
He’s also criticised Keir Starmer’s lacklustre support – and often outright opposition – to the union movement:
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) January 20, 2023
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said:
Any move to give bosses more powers to sack workers and sue unions for taking strike action in defence of jobs, wages and conditions will be fiercely resisted by the FBU.
This is a historic attack on democratic rights. The Tories are clearly hell-bent on criminalising and victimising trade unions along with anyone who protests against their agenda. We need a mass movement of resistance to these authoritarian policies.
Wrack recently spoke out against Nadhim Zahawi‘s dodgy tax affairs. Exactly one week after tweeting the following criticism of Zahawi, Wrack’s second demand was answered when PM Rishi Sunak caught up with public opinion and sacked his party chairman:
1. Pay your taxes.
3. Take the rest of the cabinet with you. https://t.co/HksHBdeN0v
— Matt Wrack (@MattWrack) January 22, 2023
Moreover, TV host and author Carol Vorderman noted how the worst of Zahawi’s behaviour effectively went unacknowledged in his sacking:
NOTE RE ZAHAWI
He was sacked
NOT because of his tax position re Gibraltar (many Tories linked to tax havens)
NOT because he issued legal threats
NOT because he's earned millions as consultant In Iraq while minister
But because he didn't say he was under HMRC investigation
— Carol Vorderman (@carolvorders) January 29, 2023
Orgreave Truth and Justice campaigner Chris Peace, meanwhile, said:
The government’s attempts to suppress dissent in the pursuit of power gives clear permission for the police to apply more aggressive tactics in managing protests. The Tories have started a ruthless war against our right to protest and our trade union rights.
General strike next?
On 11 November 2022, Canary writer Steve Topple asked:
All of this begs the question: if so many unions are striking, why are they not taking coordinated action? That is, why aren’t unions organising a general strike? Hopefully they are, and we just don’t know it yet – coordinated union action would send the strongest message to the Tory Party that workers won’t tolerate their toxic governance any longer.
This latest action isn’t a general strike. However, it does show that under the Enough is Enough banner, union action is becoming increasingly coordinated. With figures like Lynch calling for a general strike, such an event could realistically happen. It would be one which will no doubt leave the Tories regretting their anti-democratic plan to criminalise the workers’ movement:
🚨NEW: RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch calls for a 24 hour general strike in the spring. Speaking to a packed crowd in Aberdare, Lynch says: "We need a 24-hour general strike in the spring.. We [unions] can coordinate it." pic.twitter.com/JY0Z3Wu9Yu
— voice.wales (@voice_wales) January 21, 2023
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