Labour should campaign for repeal of all anti-union laws, right back to the Thatcher government's first one in 1980; and their replacement with strong legal rights for workers and unions, including a strong right to strike.
Repealing the 2016 Trade Union Act is important; so is reasserting collective bargaining; so is guaranteeing full rights from day one of a job. But as conference 2017 put it: "Our manifesto rightly said: the most effective way to maintain good rights at work is collectively through a union. Strong unions, freed from legal shackles and bolstered by positive legal rights, will be key to tackling poverty, insecurity and inequality... For unions to be effective, workers need an effective right to strike..."
The anti-union laws - all of them, not just the 2016 Act - suppress the right to strike, suppress workers' organisation, and make unions much less effective than they could be. While they remain, our movement is fighting with its hands tied behind its back.
Conference policy is quite clear:
Conference 2005 defied the Blair leadership to pass a motion calling for legalisation of solidarity action.
Conference 2015 unanimously passed a motion calling for the next Labour government to "legislate for strong rights to unionise, win recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket and take solidarity action".
Conference 2017 unanimously unanimously passed a motion calling for repeal of the 2016 Act and "anti-union laws introduced in the 1980s and 90s"; and a "strong legal charter of workers' rights".
Conference 2018 overwhelmingly passed a motion calling for a "radical government" committed to "abolishing anti-union laws".
The following Eastern Region FBU policy elaborates the position we believe Labour should adopt and campaign for, based both on conference decisions and what is necessary and right:
• Complete and speedy repeal of all anti-union laws.
• Strong legal rights for workers to join, recruit to and be represented by a union; strike/take industrial action by a process, at a time and for demands of their own choosing, including in solidarity with any other workers and for broader social and political goals; and picket freely.
• The right to reinstatement for workers found to have been sacked unfairly. A complete ban on dismissal for industrial action, however long it lasts. Full rights from day one of a job.
• Strong rights for unions to access workplaces, win recognition, and establish collective bargaining, including sector-wide bargaining.
• Unions' right to decide their own policies and activities, determine their own structures and rules, and spend their funds as they choose, free from state and employer interference, in line with ILO Conventions and the European Convention on Human Rights.
We would like to conclude by quoting from a pamphlet written by Bob Crow, then RMT Assistant General Secretary, and John Hendy QC (in 1998):
"In order for the unions to fulfil the purpose of maintaining and improving the conditions of their members' working lives, unions have to have the legal freedom to operate. That means they must demand that the anti-union laws are repealed.
"No doubt the demand for repeal will draw contempt, criticism and scare stories from the press. But the arguments in favour of repeal and replacement are formidable and irrefutable. Furthermore, the movement has its own culture, history, images and analysis which are as persuasive as anything the media can create.
"More importantly still, if the movement does not go on the offensive with its ideas and vision, there is left a void which is filled only by the ideas and vision of its enemies."