|Volume 53 Number 7, March 8, 2023
International Women's Day, March 8, 2023
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
International Women's Day, March 8, 2023:
Women Taking Up their Leading Role in the Struggle for Democratic Renewal
The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill:
Anti-strike Bill Underscores Need for Continued Resistance to Exercise of Executive Powers
SOS NHS National Demonstration:
National Demonstration in Support of Health Workers and Safeguarding the Future of the NHS
International Women's Day, March 8, 2023
Education strike - March 1, 2023
On the occasion of International Women's Day 2023, we salute all women in Britain and around the world who have taken up and are taking up their role in fighting for the rights of all and the renovation of the entire society from what is holding back the advance of history, and modernising for all humanity everything that is worn out, antiquated, medieval, warmongering and chauvinist.
Democratic renewal is about bringing into being the modern democratic personality. It is about leading the struggle for the creation of a society which affirms the rights of all. Women as a collective are evident in every struggle of the working class and people, where women have come forward as leaders and saying No! to the anti-social offensive, to the attempts to circumscribe and belittle their struggles. They are shining examples of assuming social responsibility for the fate of society and all its members. They will not be criminalised, made fair game or disempowered. Wherever the fight for renovation is, there are women to be found at the forefront and in the ranks, taking up their place in the struggle.
Women's voices are to be heard opposing the narrow private interests which are taking and have taken over the levers of the state, and are demanding governments be held to account. It is their voice which lays the claims to what belongs to them by right. Their struggle for empowerment sets the tone and the perspective for political renewal also, in which the people are the decision-makers, harmonising the interests of individuals, collectives, and the whole of society.
It is no accident that leading figures in the struggles in defence of the rights of all are women, whether it be in the fields of health, education, and other sectors vital for the well-being of society. In this respect, they are also elaborating what the new society of socialised humanity will be characterised by. This means taking a stand and working out their own vantage points which favour them, and all of society. This underlines that the struggle of women is leading to the drawing of conclusions about the society which permits all the attacks on women and girls, and the necessity to go beyond that society.
So too in the anti-war movement and the fight in practice for an Anti-War Government. The consciousness is growing that this is connected not just with the policy of this or that party in power, but that the control of that power by the warmongers and the political arrangements which perpetuate it are being challenged. Women are in the front ranks of this struggle too. They are, in this and other major concerns of the present, participating in setting the agenda as leaders of the struggle.
It is not simply that there is an indictment of society for attempting to place boundaries on women affirming themselves on the one hand and taking up the concerns of the whole of society on the other. The struggle of women has reached the stage where they are indeed coming forward to take up democratic renewal, to take up the wholesale renovation and modernisation of society, including its political institutions, and working out their own arrangements and agendas - in other words, at the forefront of the battle for democracy. Working women themselves are defining what must be done and how to bring this renovation, this renewal, about.
Throughout the world there is a demand to bring into being something new and modern, and this is the course women are set on. It is an inspiring course, whereby in struggling for their own emancipation, women are in the vanguard of opening up the path to the building of a new society fit for women and all human beings, the path to uphold the rights of all and to emancipate all of humanity. It is not separate from, but an integral part of the whole struggle for democratic renewal and a new society.
On the occasion of International Women's Day 2023, the call is for all to fully take up social responsibility, together to emancipate the whole of humanity, to affirm the rights of all, and put an end to Britain's pro-war government set-up. This is what is implied by bringing into being the modern democratic personality, to put the old, that is to say, reactionary, dysfunctional or obsolete, into the dustbin of history, and fight for the new, that is to say the human-centred, society!
Long Live International Women's Day! All Power to the Struggle of Women for the Renovation and Modernisation of Society!
RCN strike picket - Photo Independent
The unelected Sunak government has been pushing new legislation through Parliament that is even more sweeping than proposals contained in the last Conservative election manifesto to curtail the ability of workers to strike across various sectors. The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill represents an escalated use of the government's executive powers to attempt to quell the resistance of the workers to attacks on their rights and interests. It is particularly to ensure that the resistance to the privatisation of public services is curtailed, and generally to subvert the developing movement to put an end to the anti-social offensive and build a human-centred society, not one structured to pay the rich.
The Bill "to make provision about minimum service levels in connection with the taking by trade unions of strike action relating to certain services"  - introduced into the Commons by the Department for Business under Grant Shapps on January 10 - puts into place legally mandated Minimum Service Levels (MSLs) that will be required in any dispute. This will operate in two levels of arbitrariness. First, the Bill will bestow upon the Business Secretary the power to impose the MSL, merely "consulting" with "such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate", and second, it will bestow upon employers the power to decide which categories of and how many workers will be required to continue working as usual throughout the dispute in order to meet the MSL. The employer will issue a Work Notice to the unions involved to declare these work requirements.
These declarations having been made, the relevant unions are then responsible for ensuring their members comply, placing the workers' own defence organisations into the position of policing the powers that have been wielded by those in control. Failure to ensure compliance could result in fines of up to £1 million for each transgression. Individual workers themselves can also be sacked with no recourse to appeal. Additionally, the Bill empowers employers to sue unions for not having taken "all reasonable steps to ensure that all members of the union who are identified in the work notice comply with the notice".
The Bill therefore creates a combined power, and a particularly draconian one at that, held by the government and employers, to deprive workers - particularly nurses and paramedics, firefighters and rail workers - of their right to act in defence of their interests. In so doing, it seeks to entrench the profound disequilibrium that exists in the social relation between employer and employed, right at this time that workers are declaring that Enough is Enough!.
Where MSLs can be imposed is itself arbitrary. Though the Bill explicitly lists various sectors (health, education, fire and rescue, transport services; decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel; and border security), it is not limited to those sectors: the Bill reserves further powers through which the Business Secretary can enlarge the list at will.
The Bill has been railroaded through Parliament. Given its First Reading (a formality) in the House of Commons on January 10, the Bill was given its Second Reading six days later on January 16. It has been pointed out that debate was limited to three minutes per MP . Just two weeks later, it moved to Committee Stage on January 30. This is the stage where it is intended that a Bill is given line-by-line scrutiny by MPs, but in this case was treated as a mere formality. Having been passed in the Commons by 309 votes to 249, the Bill moved to the Lords on January 31, where it has been given its two readings and is due to move to Committee Stage in that House on March 9.
It is clear that in pushing through its Bill, the government has paid lip service to due process. The Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) assigned a "red rating" for the Impact Assessment of the Bill , noting the fact that the RPC received the Assessment only on February 2, weeks after the Bill had already been introduced to Parliament, and concluding that the Assessment is "not-fit-for-purpose".
The Bill is being pushed through in a situation where the "front-line workers" have the support and unity of working people as a whole against the imposition of working conditions and a direction for the economy that they cannot agree with and are affirming are unacceptable. Many polls have shown that the actions which have been taken by health service workers, teachers, and other key workers, which the government cruelly and hypocritically alleges are harming patients, children and so on, have the overwhelming support of the public. The actions of these public sector workers have forced the government to the negotiating table in many cases, having sought to impose settlements by decree. This is a victory for these workers. At the same time, the workers and their unions will not accept that these negotiations will be nothing but a breathing space for the government to stem the workers' actions, stalling on negotiating with the workers' just demands, and blaming workers for the impasse. If the government were serious on discussing the way forward with public sector workers, it would drop this arbitrary and dictatorial Bill, with its implications not just for the front-line workers but for the working class as a whole. The situation underlines that working people's struggles must be waged on a number of fronts, with the vision that far from being marginalised their voice must be heard and taken account of. This is the spirit of Enough is Enough, the affirmation that the movement of the workers is not some temporary opposition to being sidelined and driven into poverty, but is an expression of social responsibility which working people feel towards their work and to its part in the necessary renovation of society.
The workers' movement cannot accept the further restructuring of the state in which executive powers are further strengthened to serve narrow private interests, of which the Minimum Service Levels Bill is part, though formulated under the pretext of being for the good of public services. The workers and their unions have justice on their side when it comes to taking a stand for the interests of public services and the public good. For a petition launched by the "Enough is Enough!" campaign, see below .
1. UK Parliament, "Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill"
2. PCS, "Tory Anti-Strike Bill passes on to next stage", January 17, 2023
3. Regulatory Policy Committee, "Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill: RPC Opinion (Red-rated)", February 21, 2023
4. Enough is Enough: "It is no accident that this right is under attack at the very moment the public is fighting back against the cost-of-living squeeze. This government is determined to force workers to pay the price for a crisis caused by the greed of the elite yet again. We won't accept it. We, the undersigned, pledge to defend the right to strike and oppose this latest legislation #RightToStrike"
An event is being organised by the Institute of Employment
Rights (IER) that looks at the
recent pernicious attacks on the right to strike, and how the trade union movement might respond.
March 24, 2023 - 9:30 am - 3:30 pm
London, WC1X 8TN
The IER says about this event:
"Unlike other countries the UK does not have a constitutional or legal right to strike. Instead, we have a limited right to not be dismissed for taking part in industrial action. Collective and industrial rights have been chipped away by successive Governments over the last 40 years, often underpinned by economic and political myths. However, with the recent cost of living crisis and unions now responding to plummeting wage values, the array of legal caveats on workers' rights are functioning as a restriction on unions to stop them from fighting for their members rights.
"More modern attacks on workers' rights, such as the Government ending the ban on agency workers being used to break strikes last year, as well as increased Certification Officer powers, sends a message that the game is rigged further in the favour of employers. This paints a grim picture for future generations of workers.
"Since 1919 police officers have not been able to join an independent trade union. In the 1980's some workers have had their right to take strike action completely rescinded, such as the Prison Officers. Now it seems the Government have other neglected sectors of workers in their sites.
"Minimum service levels during strikes are the most recent attack on industrial rights. They seek to put the responsibility of an employer having minimum staff on to unions during disputes, with punitive legal and financial measures for unions who do not comply.
"There is now a greater need for unions to oppose such measures and demand a fair alternative for workers. The IER had just produced a pamphlet 'Workers' Rights in Times of Crisis' which analyses the economic context of these attacks, as well as the recent and proposed attacks on workers' rights. It discusses what the legal, industrial, and political implications of these attacks may be, but more importantly discusses an alternative to the current punitive chaos for workers, by exploring ideas on a Workers Bill of Rights. Delegates will receive a free copy.
"Our free events usually get booked up very quickly - book your seat in good time to avoid disappointment."
Steve Gillan, POA - Lessons from the past: The withdrawal of the
right to strike in the prison service
Professor Alan Bogg, University of Bristol - P&O and the continued attrition of workers' rights
Professor Lydia Hayes, University of Liverpool - Certification Officers powers and fines: Government opening the door for more union busting
Professor Keith Ewing, IER - The insidious nature of minimum service levels in industrial disputes
Lord John Hendy KC and Professor Keith Ewing, IER, - In conversation on the IER pamphlet "Workers' Rights in Times of Crisis"
More speakers to be confirmed
On Saturday, March 11, thousands of people will be demonstrating in London in support of health workers and safeguarding the future of the NHS. The demonstration is being organised and mobilised by SOSNHS, which includes many organisations such as Keep Our NHS Public and Health Campaigns Together, as well as health trade unions and most of the trade union movement.
The organisers say: "This is a national emergency. The NHS staff shortage is now at 132,000 vacancies, waiting lists and ambulance wait times have never been higher. Government could invest properly in health but over the last decade and more, we've seen it doesn't have the political will to do so. Instead it turns to private sector providers who have failed the NHS time and again, wasting tens of billions during the pandemic. We need change now."
Explaining the stand of the demonstration, SOSNHS says: "To save lives, we need emergency funds now to make up for an annual deficit of around £35bn. We must recruit and retain more frontline staff and pay them properly. In future we need a return to a fully publicly funded and provided national health service, protected from private companies who put profit before patients. The Health and Care Act addresses none of these problems. It will not put an end to contracts going to the private sector, draining resources from the NHS. Nor will pie-in-the-sky ideas like so-called 'virtual wards'. The truth is this Government wants the NHS to fail."
"The three demands of SOSNHS are:
1. Emergency funding to save a struggling NHS
2. Invest in a fully publicly owned NHS & guarantee free healthcare for future generations
3. Pay staff properly: without fair pay, staffing shortages will cost lives"
The government is quick to blame everyone and everything but themselves for the current crisis that they have created in the NHS. Keep Our NHS Public tweeted about the demonstration: "We stand with all NHS staff forced to take strike action in order to protect the service from further damage and demand the government changes course and finds the will to do what's right for both staff and patients. We demand the government fixes the crisis in our NHS!"
The demonstration comes in a period of building organised strikes and struggles of the working class and people from railway workers, health workers, education workers, civil services and many others to defend their pay and conditions and the services they provide. Already, the government has been forced to agree to negotiations with the trade unions in many instances including the health service, whilst at the same time trying to buy time to launch further attacks on trade union rights of the workers. For example, on January 9, Unite, representing ambulance workers, reported that Health Secretary Steve Barclay told them that they would need to "justify" a pay rise through "productivity" using this insult as an obstacle to the reality that health workers are today earning thousands of pounds a year less in real terms than they did in 2010 due to frozen wages, or low pay increases amidst rising inflation.
Also, the demonstration comes when people in every area are continuing to build the fight to defend their health and other services. This is all part of the whole movement of the working class and people that Enough is Enough! The demonstration is part of the people setting their sights on the goal of being in control of their own lives and the health, education and other public services that meet their needs.
Revealed in the demands of the demonstration and the reason it is taking place at this time is the need of the times for democratic renewal where the people make the decisions on these vital questions that effect the future of the NHS and that of society. It is why nurses are forced to take such unprecedented strike actions to confront the government who refuse to stop championing the rich. It is the people's programme to stop paying the rich, and that instead the wealth created by all of society should be invested in the peace and the social well-being of all. The time is now for working people to strengthen their organisation, stand firm and speak out in their own name, with their own outlook and programme as events unfold.
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