Lawful Industrial Action Bill falls: Labour leaders show their contempt for the right of workers to strike

For all the talk, in some quarters, of New Labour leading the opposition to the Tories, yesterday they failed miserably the first test. John McDonnell’s Lawful Industrial Action Bill fell in Parliament. In order to pass on to the next stage the Bill required 100 MPs present in the Commons to support in. Despite weeks of campaigning and pressing MPs to stay in London on a Friday, only 87 MPs thought the issue important enough to stay and vote for it.

The Bill, though modest in its scope, was critically important because it sought to tackle the problem of minor infringements of the law (which could have no bearing on the outcome of a ballot) being used to issue injunctions against strike action.

Out of 255 Labour MPs (or thereabouts) only 82 could bring themselves to support the Bill. Green MP Caroline Lucas supported it together with one SNP, one Plaid Cymru, and even 2 Tories. Four Labour MPs were out of the country, one in hospital, one ill, and one at a funeral. Hilary Benn, Maria Eagle and Gareth Thomas, excelled themselves by being present in the Commons but refusing to vote for it. The rest appear to have nipped off to their constituencies (or their second homes). The right of workers to strike was not sufficiently important for them to stay in London on a Friday.

Of all the candidates in the leadership election only Dianne Abbot voted for it. Even David Blunkett voted for it! Yet Ed Milliband (already a “great leader” according to Paul Kenny) apparently supported the continuation of legislation which frustrates the right of workers to take strike action. Remember the BA ballot where the failure of the union to inform their members of a dozen invalid papers was enough for a judge to invalidate a ballot in which 90% of them voted for strike action?

The BBC reported that Labour front bencher Nia Griffith insisting the party was “committed to ensuring… that strikes cannot take place without a properly conducted ballot”.

Bizarrely she agreed the existing law was not working as it had been intended.

“In recent years, employers have successfully challenged ballots – not because there was any doubt about the view of the majority of those balloted but because of minor technical non-compliances, which would have no impact whatsoever on the result of the ballot.”

So why could the Party not support the Bill?

Any Labour MP who could not support such a Bill in support of the right of workers to strike, is worthless, so far as the interests of the working class and the trades unions are concerned. After the cull of the General Election I am not sure how many union sponsored Labour MPs there are. By this contemptuous act of treachery (I don’t consider this to be hyperbole) any sponsored MP who could not support such a Bill should be dumped by their union. You can see a list of who voted and who didn’t at the Labour Representation site here. If they cannot be motivated by the injustices which the law visits on workers defending their livelihood, their jobs, or the services the provide, how can they be expected to support the struggles of the working class against the programme of the coalition government?

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