UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Theory & Practice of a UK General Strike

#tuc12 A former Labour leader once coined the phrase ‘far-fetched resolutions’ and some commentators (and Congress opponents) placed motion 5 from the 35,000 strong POA - which called for ‘coordinated action where possible with far reaching campaigns including the consideration and practicalities of a general strike' - in that category.

As an immediate proposition it undoubtedly would be. Yet it is unacceptable that a general strike should be unlawful in the UK and it is timely that the TUC should review recent expert legal opinion that ‘the right of workers to strike as a form of political protest is protected by the ECHR and as a result the Human Rights Act 1998 must protect it in UK law’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19562394

Professor Keith Ewing and John Hendy QC advance a combined legal and industrial strategy whereby unions throw the gauntlet down to the UK Government and force Judges to make a declaration that the existing restrictions are incompatible with convention rights:

Legal arguments aside, there needs to be a reality check in some quarters of the trade union movement about the state of readiness of unions, and more importantly union members, for industrial action of such magnitude and its likely economic impact.

With only 15% of private sector workers in trade unions (and less than 5% in the fast growing food and leisure private services) and with public sector union density at 56%, there is much organising work to be done before a critical mass exists for general strike action as effective as that seen recently in Greece, Portugal and Spain:

Co-ordinated strike action in and across bargaining sectors has undoubted potential but a well worn general strike slogan, in and of itself, is no substitute for a coherent industrial and political strategy to force a change in government austerity policies.