...goes to everyone's favourite lumbering bureaucrat, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber;
If they do try and change the law the Government would run a real risk of provoking more groups of workers to think, ‘We’ll go down different routes... we won’t have ballots. We’ll carry out wildcat responses’.We have the tightest regulations on strikes anywhere in the advanced industrial world and there is no decent intellectual or political justification for tightening them still further.
He's right on both counts. Not only do we have the most stringent trade union laws in Europe, as a result of nothing less than the state wishing to aid the bosses by reigning in class power, but workers are getting pissed off with it.
Whilst the public sector pensions dispute is a slow burning one, with the associated unions advancing at a crawl, other conflicts are igniting all over the place. One of the most inspiring examples of late has been The Sparks - the rank-and-file group created to resist employers' attacks whilst not being hamstrung by union officialdom. Though they haven't yet had wildcat strikes, the mould in which they have been created is one which has the potential to see such action become the norm rather than the glorious exception - if the initiative fulfils its promise.
Elsewhere, the migrant cleaners of Guildhall have recently won another wildcat strike. Following on from a similar victory in July, they offer one of the best examples on the ground of syndicalist organising methods. By making all workers a part of the decision-making and the action, rather than leaving it to an official in a union office, you make the strikes all the more solid and legality an irrelevance. Direct action, as the saying goes, gets the goods.
But it goes without saying that this should not be seen as a "threat" by Brendan Barber and the TUC, and certainly not an endorsement of such tactics. Despite the rhetoric of leftists, and the ridiculous notion of lobbying the body to call a public sector general strike, the TUC quite simply has far too much to lose. Defeating the anti-strike laws means defying them, as more workers will come to realise when struggles intensify, but for the unions such defiance means bankruptcy and possibly worse. For the umbrella body of the country's trade unions, supporting such action would be nothing short of suicidal.
And that's even if we overlook the fact that the TUC and trade union leaders sold out workers and betrayed strikes even without the prompting of the law. It is, in fact, a part of their nature.
Brendan Barber may have enough foresight to predict an increase in wildcat strikes, but when push comes to shove his role will be to help demobilise them. The same goes for all other trade union leaders, including the so-called "awkward squad." When such strikes come about, they will come about because of rank-and-file agitation. If they survive it will be because of the solidarity of our class, indefiance of the law and trade union officialdom alike.