Vince Cable, the secretary for business told union members at the GMB congress yesterday that as long as strike levels remain low the government wouldnâ€™t need to introduce more anti-union laws. However he warned that â€œshould the position change, and should strikes impose serious damage to our economic and social fabric, the pressure on us to act would ratchet upâ€.
We know some Tory hardliners like Boris Johnson are proposing that a minimum of 50% of those eligible to vote (not just of votes cast) must vote to strike. Johnson claims his 50% minimum is â€˜democraticâ€™. But just 19% of the electorate voted for him as mayor! Cable got just over 40% of the electorate last year â€“ still well below the threshold â€“ and I doubt he would get even that now after his performance in government.
We need to stand up for the democratic right to strike. Firefighters and other workers are not slaves. Thatcher imposed the most restrictive anti-trade union laws anywhere in the western world, banning workplace votes and introduced ballots to reduce support for strikes. We argued at the time these would lead to a lower turnout.
Now they have the bare face cheek to tell us we can only take action if an even higher hurdle is cleared. The real reason is that the government fears a backlash from unions on issues like pensions. It fears unions could lead a revolt to defend public services and public sector workersâ€™ jobs. It wants us to shut up and keep our heads down.
We canâ€™t do that. The whole point of unions is to help our members to defend themselves from attacks. We decide these things democratically. The government are the disruptors and the wreckers, not workers. We will take strike action if we have to.