With the news that Unison is calling on its members to show resistance to government cuts, it is interesting to consider Christine Blower’s comment during the Compass conference (see here for full review of conference) on how included within the Freedom Bill should be more protection for unions to protect their members, and for members and unions together, to take coordinated action. There has recently been a full assault on the power and ability of unions to protect their members, I remember blogging in disbelief as the RMT strikes which were blocked by court action.
The courts and companies seem to be finding any excuse they can to interpret the anti-union laws so that they can prevent the right to a collective democratic voice expression. There are wide-ranging cuts already taking place, especially within local government despite the fact that they need to be strong to provide for better local democracy (something the government supposedly wants to advance). With the emergency budget soon to report, and it looking as though Osborne will not be put off by the Office of Budget Responsibility, there will be an increasing attack on key public services as savage cuts are implemented and tax rises on the most vulnerable, instead of the most able to pay, will occur. The ideological desire to cut couldn’t be any plainer, no longer can ministers pass the buck to ‘economic necessity’.
So when the unions start mounting a rightful protest to theses damaging cuts, what is the response likely to be? Well there is no doubt that there will be the usual union bashing – it is clear to see that BA’s Willie Walsh is intent on breaking the union down. This is where Blower’s point is so clear, why is it fair to curtail the democratic right to protest of trade unions through needless law suits? The government talks about giving power back and the right to restore democracy, but forgets about this fundamental area of reform that needs to take place.
With Simon Heffer arguing:
“Even if harsh measures are taken with our debt, the consequences could still be severe if cuts are not harsh enough and not balanced with tax incentives.”
It is crucial that the progressive left gets behind attempts such as the unions to reduce the impact of these cuts as much as we can. We have to make sure that trade union action is not shot down at any opportunity as it most likely will, so that we protect the democratic right to protest as well as undermining the cuts as best we can.