Maggie’s pledge to fight Thatcher’s anti-union laws

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Artist Ricardo Levins Morales commemorates the "Eight Hour" movement of early trade unionists.
Artist Ricardo Levins Morales commemorates the “Eight Hour” movement of early trade unionists.

Maggie is marking May Day, celebrated around the world as International Workers’ Day, with a vow to fight back against Margaret Thatcher’s anti-trade-union laws.

She has pledged to push for new European laws that would give us back the right to ballot for industrial action on any grounds we see fit – including taking secondary action, which was banned by the new Conservative government in 1980.

And she will work for laws guaranteeing us the right to join a trade union, to have a union chosen by employees recognised in the workplace, and to be represented by that union.

Maggie said:

“Workers are fighting a war of attrition for what little rights we have left. We can’t win like that. This May Day, I want us to take a day to get off the back foot and demand better – much better – for ourselves and for our colleagues across Europe.

“With complex, multi-employer workplaces, we need to restore our right to sympathy action. When British Airways staff walked out in defence of their Gate Gourmet colleagues, they were breaking the law. This divide-and-rule law is brutally effective and must be repealed.

“Millions of workers are unsupported because they fear repercussions if they try to organise. We should enshrine in law the specific right to join a union, to have a union recognised in the workplace, and to be represented by that union.

“We cannot have a just economy if ordinary workers don’t have the means to stand up for ourselves. As Scotland’s Green MEP, I’ll fight to undo Thatcher’s anti-union laws.”

The ban on secondary, or sympathy, action was repealed by Clement Attlee’s Labour government in 1946. It was banned by Thatcher’s Employment Act 1980. Despite calls from the major unions, and Labour’s own conference delegates, the Labour government refused to repeal the ban.

The European Union has the power to legislate for workers’ rights, which could overturn the Tory anti-union laws, while also creating a level playing field so that corporations can’t play countries off against each other in a race to the bottom.

Maggie is a committed trade unionist, and a member of the executive of the University Lecturer’s Association, part of Scotland’s main teaching union, EIS. She was the first elected politician in Scotland to support the Living Wage, and as a councillor in Edinburgh, won a four-year campaign to secure a living wage for city employees.