Better to break bad laws than break workers’ backs!

The STUC has called the ‘Scotland United Against Austerity’ mass demo in Glasgow on Saturday 20 June—an idea the SSP pushed for from the day after the election outcome. (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Richie Venton, SSP national workplace organiser The Queen’s Speech, written by a Tory government elected by only 24.4 per cent of all eligible voters and in the case of Scotland, a government supported by a minuscule 10.5 per cent of registered vote, is saturated in hellish plans to butcher benefits, wipe out workers’ rights and slaughter services—class warfare on the millions by a government of the millionaires with no mandate.

That perfectly captures the undemocratic nature of capitalist rule through Westminster which must be defied by a united mass movement of resistance, or generations to come will suffer the consequences.

With callous disregard for the facts, David Cameron declared: “We have a mandate from the British people, a clear manifesto and the instruction to deliver. We will not waste a single moment in getting on with the task.”

They plan to forge ahead with a blitzkrieg on workers’ rights and the incomes of millions already struggling to survive. Shameless, racist measures designed to whip up division amongst the victims of Tory rule include new immigration laws that amount to ‘deport now, appeal later’—which in many cases would mean appealing against deportation after death in the war-torn countries people have fled from.

The core of the Tories’ class warfare is directed at the working class majority population. A blitz on benefits and wipeout of workers’ rights. Of their total £30billion cuts, an additional £12billion benefit cuts are planned. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies these plans it will especially be the working poor, particularly those with children, who will suffer the most severely.

They point out that the much-trumpeted benefits cap, being cut from £26,000 to £23,000 for a household, will hammer families with several children and high rents, cutting about 24,000 families’ incomes by £3,000 a year.

But as fewer than 100,000 families across the UK will be impacted, this will only meet about £0.1billion of the Tories’ total £12billion target. Abolition of housing benefits to jobseekers aged 18-21 may therefore be extended to all those under 25; an outrageous attack on those starting out in life.

As Tax Credits (£30billion a year) and Housing Benefits (£26billion a year) make up more than half of all ‘unprotected’ public spending, and Disability and Incapacity Benefits a further third of the total, the IFS rightly forecasts that the bulk of the cuts will target these people.

As they put it, “About 80 per cent of entitlements to benefits got to working age families, and a large majority of these benefits are means-tested, so it will be very difficult to avoid hitting low-income families—especially those with children—hardest.” And they add that 75 per cent of benefits go to families in the bottom half of incomes. This starkly underlines the tsunami of cuts about to hit the working class and poorest, unless we build mass resistance.

Slashing the numbers entitled to Carers’ Allowances by 40 per cent; cutting £3.8billion off Tax Credits, by hounding part-time workers with impossible new targets on additional hours of work; slaughtering an estimated 1.3 million public sector jobs by 2019: these are some of the appalling measures leaked out before Her Majesty even got round to announcing the Tory Butchers’ plans for the people who never gave them a mandate.

Pivotal to this class warfare are plans to virtually abolish trade union rights. The government that won a grand total of 36 per cent of all votes cast, and a mere 24.4 per cent of eligible voters, is imposing rules that demand a 50 per cent turnout and at least 40 per cent of all eligible voters before a union can take any form of legal industrial action in defence of jobs, services or workers’ rights.

So in a workforce of 200, at least 100 would have to vote, and at least 80 of them vote for the action—an almost impossible set of hurdles designed to stop effective resistance by the organisations that are the first and last line of defence for workers—their unions.

Their manifesto homed in on introducing the 40 per cent threshold first in “those essential services—health, education, fire and transport”; services they regard as far from essential as they slash their funding! But of course they will spread their legal poison to every sector if they get away with it in the ‘essential services’.

On top of that, the Tory election manifesto made it brutally plain what to expect if workers dare defy their pursuit of profit maximisation. To quote the Tory statement of intent: “We will repeal nonsensical restrictions banning employers from hiring agency staff to provide essential cover during strikes.”

So they plan to scrap the current ban on use of Agency workers to scab on strikes, so they can conscript desperate and insecure people into further undermining fellow workers’ wages, jobs and conditions.

A massive campaign of resistance needs to be mounted, in the parliament, in the workplaces, on the streets, in our communities.

It is therefore extremely good news that the Scottish TUC has called the ‘Scotland United Against Austerity’ mass demo in Glasgow on Saturday 20 June—an idea the SSP pushed for from the day after the election outcome. We all need to build that into a mammoth show of unity against all forms of cuts and attacks on workers’ rights.

And it needs to become the platform to launch an ongoing resistance. This to include a concerted demand for powers over the minimum wage to be devolved to Scotland so we can fight for a Scottish £10-an-hour minimum wage for all over 16, with equal pay for women.

A campaign to win devolution of powers over employment laws, so as to repeal the lot and usher in a Charter of Workers’ Rights instead. A campaign to win power for Holyrood over business taxes—but not so as to reduce taxation of big business, as the SNP wish, but to restore Corporation Tax to its 50 per cent pre-Thatcher level, as demanded by the SSP.

Whilst fighting for such powers to protect the Scottish working class from Tory dictatorship, the STUC and union leaderships also need to square up to the fact that submission to the anti-union laws means accepting literal destitution and starvation for big sections of working class people.

The unions literally wouldn’t exist if our predecessors had meekly accepted the ‘laws of the land’, written and imposed by an upper-class minority hell-bent on squeezing the last drop of profit and privilege for themselves out of the sweated labour of the real wealth-creators.

Nobody would lightly hand over union assets—accumulated from workers’ union subs—but unless union leaders are prepared to defy these anti-union laws, workers will have no chance. It’s better to break bad anti-union laws than allow the Tories and profiteering employers to break the backs of workers.

Join the SSP in defiance of Tory dictatorship. Help build the STUC demo on 20 June. Resolve to resist the slaughter of jobs, services, benefits and workers’ rights by a government with no popular mandate to rule and ruin. United in determined action we can defeat the Tories class war.

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