The protest outside Downing Street was called by the RMT rail workers’ union (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Around 2,000 people protested outside Downing Street in central London on Monday night as the Tories pushed new repressive laws against strikes through Parliament.

The protest, called by the RMT union, focused opposition to the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill which would force workers in health, education, transport and some other areas to scab on their own strikes. Even if they met all the requirements of the existing anti-union laws, they would have to keep services going at a level ultimately set by the government.

Darline, an NHS worker in the Unison union, told Socialist Worker, “We must protect our human right to strike. We need more strikes and if we have to break the law we will. The solution is to kick out the Tories.” 

Protesters were lifted by news that has just come out that teachers in the NEU union had voted to strike. Their first action, over pay and conditions, will be on 1 February. This is the TUC union federation’s day of action against the new laws. It means half a million workers in the PCS civil service, UCU university union and the NEU are set to strike on that day. And more could and should join them.

Protesters from the CWU, UCU, Equity and more unions chanted, “Fuck the Tories.” Many held placards reading, “Defend the right to strike—let’s break the anti-union laws.”

Kareo is a member of the Unite union. He told Socialist Worker, “The government wants to stop our right to strike, so we must resist. They are corrupt. They want to beat back inflation by pushing workers’ pay down.”

From the stage TUC general secretary, Paul Nowak told the crowd, “We will fight tooth and nail to defend the right to strike.” He added, “When we fight together we have the power to win a pay rise for every worker in the country.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, “The government has decided to bring in this anti-worker law because it wants to make effective strike action illegal in Britain.”

He added, “This violation of democratic norms and values will be strongly opposed by the RMT and the entire labour movement, in Parliament, the courts and the workplace, if it is put on the statute books.”

The action mustn’t stop on 1 February, or focus purely on parliamentary and legal battles. Robert, an RMT member, told Socialist Worker, “We need a real fight to protect our rights. A multi-union fightback with potential to escalate can win.”

Amelia, a student, agreed saying, “We need more protests and many more people on the picket lines. We all need to organise in our communities, workplaces and universities to oppose the Tories.”

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