Withdrawal of labour via industrial action is a key tenet of the relationship between worker and employer. It is a bargaining tool for workers to help them to receive adequate compensation for their labour and to maintain acceptable working conditions, hours of work, paid holidays, safety at work, etc. Without the strike option employers are considerably less hindered in their pursuit of unfettered exploitation of employees.
Strikes, historically, were important events that led to improved wages, job security, safety and workers’ entitlements. They help to shape society, aid democracy and raise quality of life. They are political acts: The population versus propertied elite. In a capitalist or authoritarian nation strikes are utterly necessary.
Hiring staff to work in place of striking workers was illegal in UK because it undermines the purpose of strikes. It hands more power to employers. It attacks workers directly. It hands an advantage to employers that is incompatible with democracy.
On 21st July (2022), as part of its policy of erasure of rights as an aid to strengthening wealth concentration, the Tory government made hiring of scabs legal and encouraged employers to take that option. The change to the law applies specifically to people not already employed by a business; current employees were able to continue work during a strike though they were, rightly, labelled as “scabs.”
In Scab law Etonian Kwasi Kwarteng (Tory Business Secretary) admitted that the sole purpose of allowing mass scabbing was to remove the effectiveness of strikes: “This will help to mitigate the disproportionate impact strike action.” His Tory colleague Grant Shapps (Tory Transport Secretary) added “this vital reform means any future strikes will cause less disruption.”
The point of strikes is to “impact” and to “cause disruption.” This year, in many different workplaces and professions, several strikes took place and there were (and are) many more threats of strikes. All were called as direct responses to exploitative behaviour by employers including low pay, wage rises far below inflation (and so, effectively, wage cuts), unsafe working conditions for employees and, in public services, for the public, lack of job security and understaffing. The strikes were necessary acts to fight against employers extending the boundaries of their exploitation.
The combatting of exploitation is not just for immediate rebalancing but also for historical precedence and advancement. Trades’ unions are having a strong year. This follows a period of genuine political opposition in UK from 2015 to December 2019 and is a reaction to the Tory government lurching rightwards toward extreme libertarian anti-society anti-democracy economic devastation. An additional reason for confidence and focus of unions is the knowledge that so-called Labour Party, led by donors’ puppet conservative Starmer, is not an alternative to the current regime and so workers and unions do not feel their actions need approval from Labour.
Tories’ Scab Law is a simple statement of their philosophy. Their single objective is concentration of wealth and to achieve that they need to dismantle democracy by removing rights and laws that help to rebalance society. They are removing the dampeners on the constant desire for exploitation by the propertied.
Kwarteng is deeply associated with libertarian assassins of democracy and has been so for many years. He co-wrote ‘Britannia Unchained,’ a guidebook for dismantlement of society, that included the assertion that “once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. Too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work. [British people] work among the lowest hours, retire early and productivity is poor.” The vitriol in the book aimed at the public by an Etonian stank of vicious feudal exploitation and fascism.
Trades Unions, among others, are at the frontline of the war against the economic extremism of the Tory government. The latter’s plans, devised, designed and constructed over many years, have no limit to how destructive is the intent. Since 1980s Tory government the objective of conservatives in UK is to devolve the country into a charter territory owned by a wealthy elite where the rest of us rent our lives. Successive bills processing through parliament last year and this year enable wealth concentration directly, and indirectly by annihilations of rights, access to justice and democracy. Johnson the performing clown is gone; his successor (Truss, another co-writer of ‘Britain Unchained’) and her cabinet will be much worse.
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