Starmer vs. workers’ struggle

By a Free Our Unions supporter

With good reason, hundreds of thousands of labour movement activists feel contempt for Keir Starmer and little inclination to treat his pronouncements seriously.

Nonetheless, it is an unfortunate fact that Starmer leads the only substantial political party based on the UK’s labour movement. When he uses pro-worker rhetoric – as he has in a new attempt to mollify the trade union movement following the outrage at the sacking of Sam Tarry – we should note it and demand he follows through.

In his article for the Mirror, Starmer writes:

“I completely understand why people are going on strike to secure better pay and better conditions. I support their right to do so.”

This is obviously mealy mouthed: why support the right, not the strikes? But also: in fact workers in the UK don’t currently have anything like the right to strike. They haven’t since the introduction of a wave of anti-union laws in the 1980s and early 90s.

“When I was a lawyer, I represented striking miners for free. Not just sentiment and a photo opp. I backed up my words with action.”

But the miners’ strike would have been multiple-times illegal under today’s anti-union laws (even at the time it violated at least one recently introduced law, requiring ballots before strikes).

“That means turning from a party of protest into a party that can win power – then hand that power to working people.”

A Labour government should hand power to working people? Yes! But how?

A Labour leader who takes any of this remotely seriously would advocate and campaign for repeal of the anti-trade union laws – all of them, back to the first one Thatcher’s government passed in 1980. As the conference of Starmer’s party has repeatedly demanded.

Trade unionists and Labour activists must mobilise our organisations to force Starmer’s leadership to accept this policy. At the same time, we must demand Labour backs and helps mobilise protests to stop the threat of new anti-union laws.

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