Massive workers’ rallies across UK defend the right to strike 

The Tory government in the UK has been waging a war against the working class through its austerity-ridden policies and anti-worker legislation

February 03, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Right to Strike - UK
Mobilization at Newcastle upon Tyne on February 1, 2023. (Photo: Vyshakh Thaliyil) 

On Wednesday, February 1, over half a million people joined the ‘Right to Strike’ rallies called by trade unions across the UK to protest the austerity-ridden anti-worker policies of the Tory government, including a legislation which intends to curtail the right to strike.  More than 40,000 people marched in London alone. Rallies were also held in cities like Glasgow, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, Cambridge, Nottingham, Newcastle, among several others. The rallies were attended by activists and leaders of unions including the National Education Union (NEU), Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, University and College Union (UCU), Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), and National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT). 

Teachers formed the largest contingent in the rallies, raising banners that read ‘Save Our Schools,’ and calling for an increase in wages, staff, and funds for schools. The demonstrators demanded that the Tory government withdraw the anti-strike bill and the notorious Scabs’ Charter.

The Tory government introduced a controversial Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill in the UK parliament on January 10, which would enable the state and employers to force workers to ensure minimum service during trade union strikes across eight key sectors including health, ambulance, fire and rescue, security, education, and transport. The bill would empower bosses to sack workers who refuse to provide a minimum level of service during walkouts across key sectors, as well as sue trade unions in court both to prevent strikes and claim damages. It has gone through the House of Commons and currently awaits its second reading in the House of Lords on February 23. The bill has outraged the working class across Britain, who are already at loggerheads with the Tory government over pay restoration, the untackled  cost of living crisis, and the Scabs’ Charter.

In his statement on February 1, Communist Party of Britain (CPB) General Secretary Robert Griffiths greeted the protesting workers and said that “union action is stronger when we are together. Today is a living testimony to working class principles of unity, solidarity, and not crossing a picket line. There is a rising tide of rage at the attack on wages, conditions, pensions, and services, and at a government that simultaneously blocks negotiations in some areas whilst conducting sham negotiations in others. They should come to the table or clear out of the way.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) said that “taking strike action is very much a last resort for our members. Knowing that parents and members of the community support them taking a stand to ‘Save Our Schools’ will give educators huge confidence in taking this action, not just for fair pay, but in defense of children’s education.”

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has called for another round of mobilization on the budget day of the Tory government, March 15.