Fighting for trade union freedom

Trade unions have been under sustained attack globally, and in the North are fettered by a litany of anti-union laws to colloquially as the “Thatcher anti-union laws”, these labour restrictions are actually Stormont’s anti-union laws since they are a devolved matter.

Socialist Worker

Fighting for trade union freedom

Unsurprisingly, only when two socialist MLAs entered the arena were these anti-labour laws challenged. Former People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann introduced a private members bill to the NI Assembly: The Trade Union Freedom Bill. This legislation was launched and entered consultation before the Assembly collapsed this year. The Trade Union Freedom Bill has received enthusiastic support from many trade unions and activists across the board.

The legislation would remove the most restrictive aspects of labour law, including obstacles unions face in order to take industrial action and work stoppages. People Before Profit believes strong workplace representation, the right to take collective action and to express solidarity are fundamental rights for working people to challenge poverty wages, defend our public services and fight for a fairer distribution of wealth. 

Right time

Eamonn McCann explained the time is right for a full overhaul of the anti-union laws,

“At a time when the gap between the rich and the poor is relentlessly widening in the North my hope is that this bill will pass, and that it will enhance the ability of people in the bottom half of society to seek redress through collective action.”

Though Eamonn McCann lost his seat in Foyle, fellow People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll will reintroduce this private member’s bill in the new assembly.

The Bill will incorporate the ideas of labour union members and leaders across the North through the consultation process in order to reflect the needs and real difficulties that unions have in organising their members against the onslaught of austerity, characterised by low-wages, zero-hour contracts, privatisation and an erosion of rights at the workplace.

Strong unions willing to take militant action and mobilise people power are needed to effectively challenge poverty and fight for the redistribution of wealth.

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