Opposing the anti-union laws on Monday in Parliament Square (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Around 600 activists rallied outside parliament on Monday evening to rage against new Tory anti-union laws allowing the bosses to sack workers if they strike. 

The Minimum Service Levels Bill tries to force ­workers in areas including health, fire and rescue, education and transport to cross their own picket lines. The TUC union federation called the demonstration as MPs voted on the bill in the House of Commons. 

During the Commons debate, the government made clear it wanted punishment for workers who refused to scab. Explaining why ministers opposed an amendment to remove possible dismissal for continuing to strike, Tory Kevin Hollinrake said it “Would mean that there were no consequences for a worker who did not comply with a work notice. 

“The government disagree with the amendment, as without those consequences, employers would be powerless to manage instances of non-compliance.”

And he also demanded penalties for unions saying, “If we remove the consequences for trade unions we will be far less likely to achieve minimum service levels, as trade unions might attempt to persuade workers not to comply with work notices, and to take strike action instead.”

Outside parliament, activists from the GMB, Unite, CWU, Equity, Bectu, NEU, RMT, FBU, the Nautilus marine workers’ union, NASUWT, Unison, WGGB —the writers’ union, UCU, PCS and other unions joined the demonstration. 

Terry is an ambulance worker in Unison. “I’m here to defend our right to strike,” he said. “We aren’t servants. We aren’t slaves. We must have the right to negotiate.

“But I also think that the fact that the Tories are attacking us like this shows that they are worried. They are worried about the power of the strikes we have seen in the last year.”

Terry added that the anti-union laws are part of a broader clampdown on dissent that includes environment protesters and anti-monarchists. “They are trying to create an intolerable environment for everyone but the rich—for migrants and refugees, workers and all those who fight back,” he said.

Hedley, a media worker in the Bectu union, said, ”The Tories are stripping away our rights. It’s scary. Strikes are one of the only ways we can actually show our anger.” 

Maddie, another member of Bectu, said, “It might be public service workers who are under attack now, but the Tories won’t stop. They’ll make strikes impossible for all of us.” 

Junior doctor Anna hit back at the Tories and the bosses saying minimum service levels are to protect NHS patients.  “Junior doctors are striking because we want the wards to be safe. It’s dangerous at the moment. It’s unsafe on a non-strike day. But the Tories aren’t doing anything about that.” 

Junior doctors have just announced new strikes from 7am on Wednesday 14 June to 7am on Saturday 17 June.

Some speakers said that the way to get rid of these laws is to elect a Labour Party government.  Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens, shadow secretary for Wales, told the rally, “I promise you, if Labour gets into power at the next election—We. will. repeal. this. legislation.”

But some protesters weren’t convinced by such pledges. Oliver, a striking worker at Guy’s and  St Thomas’ hospitals trust, told the crowd, “I don’t think we can rely on Labour. Instead, we should rely on more industrial action to ensure that the bosses can’t implement the legislation.” 

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said his union “will not bend the knee” to the new laws. “We will not allow our workers to be disciplined under these laws,” he said. 

“In the autumn trade unions must unleash a mass campaign of disobedience and defiance. We will not accept the conscription of our members. The laws will mean our members must run a minimum service and will be forced to cross their own picket lines. We won’t let that happen.” 

Such words need urgently to be turned into action. It’s shameful that the laws have gone so far without union leaders calling for any real revolt. Only disobedience and defiance of these laws will break them. 

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