We live in a time that is certainly more tolerant and accepting than many centuries previously. Advantages in women’s rights, race relations and LGBT emancipation have been numerous and the activism of those groups of people agitating for change shouldn’t be minimised. However it would be foolish to argue that systemic prejudices remain commonplace in Western societies. New evidence of discrimination on the grounds of race has been revealed by data collected by the TUC. Structural disadvantages for people of colour can only be rectified if there is a popular demand for change to force the government into decisive action.
Employment tribunals are a key way for workers to protect themselves against unscrupulous employers but in recent years the number of people going to tribunals has dramatically fallen. This is largely because of the introduction of tribunal fees, whereby workers had to pay, in some cases, thousands of pounds up front in order to have their cases heard. According to figures from the Ministry of Justice quoted by the BBC, the number of cases going to tribunals has dropped from around 5,000 per month before tribunal fees were introduced in 2013, to around 1,600 per month after the introduction. However this situation has finally been remedied, as the Supreme Court has ruled that these punitive fees are against the law.
Because of Theresa May’s general election own-goal, Labour are more influential and united in the House of Commons, and indeed the Tories and now descending into their latest Europe-based civil war. In an attempt to appear more Prime Ministerial, Theresa May gave a speech today in which she reached out to the Labour Party and other parties to work with the government on delivering Brexit. May said “I say to other parties in the House of Commons- come forward with your own views and ideas about how we can tackle these challenges as a country”. Labour needs to seize this opportunity in order to preserve the more positive aspects of EU membership whilst also exploiting the fissures currently opening up in the Conservative Party.
Theresa May is very hard ahead in the opinion polls and it is widely expected that the Conservatives will win a landslide majority in the upcoming general election. Following the leak of the draft copy of the Labour manifesto much media attention has been placed on the comparison between Labour’s detailed plans for the country and the Tory platitudes marching out of the mouth of Theresa May. The PM is now appearing to put some meat on the bones of Tory priorities and has done so by making a pitch for Labour supporters in the party’s heartlands.
Theresa May claims that the Conservative Party are the party of working people. Obviously this is total horseshit and this is evidenced by, among many other things, the 2016 Trade Union Act. This Draconian piece of legislation was an unprovoked attack on the largest democratic movement in the country, a movement which works every single day to improve the rights of working people. It appears that the Welsh government also doesn’t believe Theresa May and Assembly Members (AMs) are working to undo the Tory restrictions on workers’ rights. This is an issue that is currently being overshadowed by the Tory attempts to use Brexit as a means to further erode the rights of working people, and they must not be allowed to succeed.
Whenever a group of public sector workers contemplates industrial action, the government always condemns the move, which is unsurprising, but members of the right-wing commentariat begin openly musing about restricting the right to strike. We have seen this recently with the newest round of industrial action called by junior doctors, and although the strike scheduled for next week has been called off, many on the Right are still wished to revoke this right from junior doctors. The objection is based on two premises: strike action may cause avoidable deaths; and essential workers shouldn’t be allowed to go on strike. I have previously argued that making doctors work long hours with more patients will cause more fatalities than industrial action, but the subject of this piece will be challenging the idea of ‘essential workers’.
A few hours ago workers across India went on strike against the government’s punitive trade union legislation that will unilaterally change workers’ rights. The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) has led the opposition to the government’s proposals and have organised rallies across the country to protest these changes in the law. Banks, local government offices, and factories have been forced to close and solidarity strikes by some trade unions in specific states have also shut down telecommunications and public transport networks. Today millions of workers will be on strike.