Our Say

After G8 and the London bombings - the way forward

London terror attacks condemned

After Live 8:
from pressure to action

The G8 summit and political power

Make the G8 leaders history

A sham election

10 good reasons to boycott May 5

Don't be blackmailed into voting

Reject ‘dependency’ politics

No votes for New Labour!

Parliament seals its own fate

A secret policeman's government

Vote for "none of the above"

How to remember the victims of the tsunami

A state of crisis

New Labour and the big lie

Yasser Arafat - a revolutionary life

After the US election

Blood on New Labour's hands

Butler and weapons of mass deception

With 'leaders' like these, who needs enemies?

How to meet the threat from the right

Barbarians at the gate

Torture, values and lies

The silence of the lambs

War crimes in Iraq

The slaughter in Madrid

The unfinished business of the miners’ strike 1984-85

L’état – c’est New Labour

The death of liberal democracy foretold

Hutton washes the state whiter than white

Top-up fees and the market economy

Our challenge for 2004

New Labour's march to a police state

Bush & Blair - partners in crime

London Region revolts against FBU leaders

Postal workers in the front line

No turning back

Where we go from here

Stop the War Coalition leaders and political fabrication

Regime change begins at home

Blood on New Labour's hands

There's more involved than just Blair

New Labour, lies and spies

Firefighters should reject deal and disown leaders

BECTU vote on New Labour link a step forward

Time runs out for FBU leaders

New Labour's one-party state

The blind alley of crude anti-Americanism

Occupation of Iraq - time to move beyond protest

War is a test for principles

Iraqi defiance shocks and awes

FBU leaders who backed capitulation should resign now

Down with New Labour's war - for regime change in Britain

FBU at war with New Labour

New Labour, not just Blair, is the target

50 years since the death of Stalin - an assessment

FBU finds itself in Precott's trap

War is Peace - Blair's fictitious 'push for peace'

15/2: Global marches put power on the agenda

Crisis of globalisation behind attack on Iraq

Tell it how it is

An injury to one is an injury to all

War plans expose fraudulent 'democracy'

A 'regime change' in Britain is the answer to war on Iraq

FBU needs a new strategy

Challenging New Labour

A moment of truth in the fight against New Labour

Gilchrist says it how it is

Time to defy the anti-union laws in support of the FBU

FBU must ask for solidarity strikes

FBU leaders must ask for support now

New Labour provokes confrontation

Italian police attack No-Global movement

New Labour declares war on FBU

Don't let the FBU fight alone

UN writes a blank cheque for war

Blood on Putin's hands

Unions must support firefighters with action not words

Support the firefighters - defeat New Labour

Bush-Blair war agenda revealed

Seeing through New Labour's weapons of mass deception

The US media and the new garrison state

The BEGINNING of Politics

How technology could
free humanity

'Terminator' engineering: A threat to humanity

The future is socialist

Asylum legislation fuels racist attacks

Road map to the future

E-mail to hear about site changes, placing 'update' in body of message



Time to defy the anti-union laws in support of the FBU

The decision by the RMT rail union to postpone a Tube drivers' ballot for action on safety grounds while firefighters are on strike is a matter for concern.

RMT leaders took their decision following an explicit threat by Prime Minister Blair that London Underground management would act in the courts to have such a strike declared unlawful. Instead of organising a ballot, the union is seeking legal advice.

What they will hear from expensive lawyers is what we all know already. Under legislation introduced by the Tories - and retained by New Labour - unions that take action in support of other workers are liable to heavy fines and ultimately to have their assets seized by the state.

This is only the latest of a series of challenges posed by New Labour in its determination to smash the Fire Brigades Union and impose a package of job losses and worse conditions on firefighters.

Is the trade union movement in general, and those who say they support the FBU in particular, going to rise to this challenge? Or are they going to use the cover of "legality" to hold back from delivering effective support for the FBU?

A number of union leaders, including TUC general secretary John Monks, have recognised that this confrontation raises major political issues alongside the FBU's pay claim. New Labour does not want a compromise and plans to teach the whole trade union movement a lesson.

In that sense, the firefighters are to New Labour what the miners were to the Tories under Thatcher.

Under these conditions it is unacceptable for union leaders to talk about "legality". It just becomes an excuse for doing nothing and allowing New Labour to cordon off the FBU from the rest of the working class.

In any case, we are not talking about challenging laws against murder, or driving on the wrong side of the road or robbery. The anti-union laws are class laws introduced with the purpose of stopping trade unionists from exercising their basic right to strike in support of their brothers and sisters.

The trade unions should hold these laws in contempt and not quiver when they hear the phrase "legal action". Concern is expressed about the danger to union assets if the courts intervene. This is another excuse. These assets are worthless if they are a barrier to taking effective action.

Unions were not built to sit on assets or to run credit card schemes. It is about time they remembered those who gave their lives in the 19th century in defiance of the Combination Acts and the Tolpuddle Martyrs who the TUC likes to commemorate with a march each year.

Unless the current anti-union laws are defied, there is nothing effective other unions can do in support of the firefighters. It is good that the TUC is organising a national demonstration in support of the FBU, even though it is called for a Saturday to avoid workers walking out to join a mid-week march. But marches and financial donations will not by themselves win this struggle.

Only a broadening of the strike to involve other workers can create the conditions for defeating the government. To leave the FBU isolated is to play into New Labour's hands and the outcome could seriously weaken every trade unionist in Britain.

New Labour's encouragement to employers to use the anti-union laws is only another indication of what a deeply reactionary government this is. It could easily pay the firefighters' claim but has no intention of doing so. Instead, it puts money aside for an invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The trade union movement has to face up to what has happened politically. New Labour is not a right-wing group that has seized control of Labour. New Labour is a party that represents business and financial interests in place of the Tories. Blair and Brown are the managing directors of Britain PLC.

In 1900, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, forerunner of today's RMT, was  sued for damages by the Taff Vale company in South Wales. In 1901 the House of Lords upheld the judgement, which meant that unions could be fined for any strike action at all.

This judgement gave a tremendous boost to the building of the newly-formed Labour Party. A century later, the RMT and other unions are faced with defying both the anti-union laws and creating a party to replace New Labour. That is the lesson of the FBU's struggle.

Movement for a Socialist Future
November 28, 2002