Jeremy Corbyn has announced one of his first moves if elected Prime Minister. The Labour Party would transfer power from bosses to ordinary people by immediately repealing the Trade Union Act. The act makes it much easier for bosses to take advantage of employees. So it’s no wonder Conservative figures are out smearing the leader as a national security threat.
Rebalance power to ordinary people
Speaking in Aviemore in Scotland, Corbyn said:
One of the very first things we will do when forming our Labour government will be to repeal the vicious Tory Trade Union Act. Giving people the rights to collectively organise and make their lives better, safer and more content.
Under the act, the Conservatives made the threshold to strike much higher than the threshold to win an election to rule the country. The UN warned the Conservative Party that its Trade Union Bill may breach international law in February 2016. In spite of this, the government passed the bill in May 2016.
Now, if people work for an ‘essential service’, at least 40% of all eligible voters must vote in favour of industrial action. To be clear, not 40% of votes cast, but 40% of the entire membership. So on a 50% turnout, a huge 80% must vote in favour. This is a breathtaking double standard from the Conservatives. They only got 36% of the vote in the 2015 general election, on a 65% turnout. So their 2015 mandate was well below the bar they’ve set for trade unions.
So why should we care? Striking can feel annoying to people who want to use the service in question. But there are a few things industrial action has achieved that we take for granted in 2017.
The right to withdraw labour balances the power of bosses who set nearly all the rules in the workplace.
If you’d asked someone ‘what are you doing this Saturday?’ 100 years ago, they would have looked at you strangely and replied ‘working long hours in the factory for breadcrumbs, of course’. Sunday was always a day of rest because of Christianity. But it was trade union campaigns that gifted us a two-day weekend. In other words, those beautiful Saturday lie-ins are a product of workers’ struggles.
Yes, it used to be worse. Without trade unions pressuring capitalists to introduce the 40-hour working week, many of us wouldn’t be at home with a cuppa by 6. We’d still be stressed out at work, missing our friends and family.
Huge industrial action demanding an eight-hour workday culminated at the turn of the 20th century.
Annual leave increases
Credit for increases in annual leave, now at 5.6 weeks, also lies with trade unionists. Industrial action has increased the time we can kick back on the beach with a book.
Corbyn’s first act as prime minister would be consistent with his platform: rebalancing power from bosses to ordinary people. So no wonder the Conservatives want to fearmonger.
The freedom we enjoy today was not handed to us through generosity. It was hard fought for, through people coming together and taking action.
– Register to vote in the 8 June general election. If you don’t have a national insurance number, a 5 minute phone call on 0300 200 3500 will get it sent to you in ten days.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.
Featured image from Flickr/Garry Knight
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