Defend the right to protest, defend the right to strike!


Key rights are under attack in Britain. As the Tory government faces widespread opposition in workplaces and on the streets they are seeking to bring in laws to shut down the protests. They are attacking our right to strike and our right to demonstrate. Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, said: “It’s no coincidence that both the right to protest and the right to strike are under attack. The attacks are linked and so should our response to them be.”

Defend the right to protest

Protest is a form of nonviolent direct action that allows people to voice their grievances and demands in public. It is a way of engaging in the civic space and has been instrumental in achieving human rights through actions such as strikes, marches, sit-ins, and civil disobedience. Protests have played a significant role in liberation and justice movements and continue to impact change through creative and diverse forms. Throughout history, protests have led to positive change, although it often requires strong social movements, persistence, and participation. Despite attempts by authorities to suppress protests, their influence and legacy can be seen years later through changing social norms and laws. The power of protests lies in highlighting the lack of legitimacy of repressive power structures, raising awareness, and contributing to the gradual change of language, minds, and behaviours until a tipping point is reached. Over time, these processes have led to improvements in various issues such as governance, labour conditions, gender equality, environmental protection, and more.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty UK’s Chief Executive Director said:

“It follows a pattern of a government voicing support for protest around the world but cracking down on the right to speak up here at home.”

These new attempts to reduce protest rights are in breach of international human rights law. On September 2020, the UN Human Rights Council General Comment on the right to peaceful assembly stated:

“State parties should not rely on a vague definition of ‘public order’ to justify overbroad restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly. Peaceful assemblies can in some cases be inherently or deliberately disruptive and require a significant degree of toleration.”

For example, the government proposed Serious Disruption Prevention Orders go even further than Russian Law on Assemblies. In Russia, people convicted of protest-related offences are not allowed to organise protests. If the Public Order Bill passes, people convicted for protesting would not even be allowed to participate.

Defend the right to strike

The UK government’s proposed Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill has sparked controversy as it aims to limit the right to strike of workers in key public services such as health, education, transport and more. Many human rights defenders say that the bill is a direct attack on workers and their trade unions and instead of addressing the issues that lead to strikes, the government is making it harder for workers to win fair pay. The bill allows the government to set “minimum service levels” for public services, but with no detail on the limits, the government may impose restrictions without agreement with unions. The bill also gives employers the right to serve the union with a “work notice” specifying the number of workers required to work during the strike and mandates the union to ensure compliance, which the union claims would force them to break the strike. The bill removes protection for striking workers, allowing employers to dismiss those who take part in lawful industrial action and making unions liable for up to £1 million if they do not attempt to force striking workers to work, which will limit the right to withdraw labour.

The right to strike is a fundamental aspect of workers’ rights and a cornerstone of a just society. It provides workers with a means of bargaining for better wages, working conditions, and overall treatment from their employers. Without the right to strike, workers would have no way of leveraging their power and making their voices heard, leading to a situation where employers hold all the power in the workplace.

One of the main reasons why the right to strike is so important is that it helps to balance the power dynamic between workers and employers. Workers, particularly those who are low-paid or in low-skilled jobs, often face challenging working conditions and limited opportunities for advancement. By striking, they can draw attention to their grievances and force employers to take their concerns seriously. This, in turn, helps to create a more equitable and just workplace, where workers are treated with dignity and respect.

Another reason why the right to strike is important is that it provides workers with a way of seeking fair compensation for their labor. In many cases, workers are not paid a living wage and are unable to make ends meet, even when working full-time. By striking, workers can demand better wages and benefits, helping to ensure that they are able to provide for themselves and their families.

Strikes can also play a key role in promoting social justice and advancing human rights. For example, the right to strike has been instrumental in achieving many of the key labor rights that workers enjoy today, such as the minimum wage, paid holidays, and the right to form a union. By striking, workers can put pressure on governments and employers to make positive changes that benefit not just themselves, but society as a whole.

Finally, the right to strike is also important because it is a key component of democratic societies. Workers have the right to express their opinions and demand change, just like any other citizen. By striking, they can make their voices heard and contribute to the democratic process, helping to create a more inclusive and equitable society.

Unions Must Fight Back Against Mainstream Media Bias


Unions play a vital role in ensuring that the rights and interests of workers are protected. However, in order for unions to be effective, they must be able to communicate their message to the public. Unfortunately, relying on the mainstream media to disseminate information about unions can be problematic.

One major issue with relying on the mainstream media to put union message across is that the media often presents a biased perspective on labour issues. Mainstream news outlets are often owned by large corporations, which have a vested interest in portraying unions in a negative light. As a result, the media often focuses on stories that highlight conflicts between unions and management, while downplaying the positive contributions that unions make to the economy and society.

Another problem with relying on the mainstream media to disseminate information about unions is that the media often oversimplifies complex issues. For example, the media may portray a labour strike as a simple dispute between management and workers, rather than as a complex struggle over economic and political power. This oversimplification can lead to misunderstandings and a lack of support for union efforts.

Given these issues, it is essential that unions do not rely solely on the mainstream media to put their message across. Instead, unions must support efforts to build a counter media that can provide a more accurate and nuanced perspective on labour issues. This might include supporting alternative news outlets, such as labour newspapers or online publications, that are more likely to be sympathetic to union issues. Additionally, unions can use social media and other digital platforms to communicate directly with workers and the public, bypassing the mainstream media altogether.

Unions play an important role in protecting the rights and interests of workers. However, to be effective, unions must be able to communicate their message to the public. Relying solely on the mainstream media to disseminate information about unions is problematic due to bias and oversimplification of complex issues. Therefore, Unions must support efforts to build a counter media that can provide a more accurate and nuanced perspective on labour issues. This will help to ensure that the public has a better understanding of the vital role that unions play in our society.

Solidarity’s is assisting with Union News, a weekly podcast, and it’s a great example of how unions can support the development of a counter media. By assisting this podcast, Solidarity helps reach a wider audience, and provide a platform for discussing important labor issues in a more engaging and accessible way than traditional news outlets.

In addition to Union News, supporting established ventures like the Morning Star daily newspaper and Workers magazine is also important. Both of these publications have a long history of providing a pro-labour perspective on news and issues, and they can serve as valuable resources for union members and supporters.

New Anti-Strike Legislation: A Direct Attack on Workers’ Rights and Democracy


The government’s new anti-strike legislation, which aims to enforce “minimum service levels” in key public sectors including the NHS and schools, has met with fierce opposition from unions and criticism from experts.

The proposed Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is being seen as a direct attack on workers’ fundamental human rights and an affront to parliamentary democracy. The Bill will apply to strikes in six essential sectors: health services, fire and rescue services, education services, transport services, nuclear decommissioning, and border security. These are the same six services identified in the previous Trade Union Act 2016, which already imposed strict requirements for strike mandates to have the support of at least 40% of those eligible to vote as well as a majority of those voting.

The Bill goes even further, however, by removing the requirement for minimum service levels (MSLs) to be negotiated by agreement between trade unions and employers, and instead gives complete discretion to the Secretary of State, Grant Shapps, to set the MSLs in each of the six services. This means that the MSLs can be set at such a high level that any strike will be rendered largely ineffective.

Furthermore, the Bill is a worrying symptom of how the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has become not only the friend of employers but also an instrument of the coercive state. Despite the government’s claims of respecting the right to strike, the Bill effectively renders the right to strike to be nothing more than a right to make a meaningless protest. The Bill also includes disproportionate sanctions to ensure obedience to the will of the state, further undermining workers’ rights.

Under the new law, bosses in health, education, fire, ambulance, rail and nuclear commissioning will be able to sue unions and sack employees if minimum levels are not met. Union members who refuse to work under the minimum service requirement could lose their jobs. The new law will also back employers bringing an injunction to prevent strikes or seeking damages afterwards if they go ahead.

This Bill is a dangerous and undemocratic attempt to silence workers and deny them their basic human rights. It must be opposed by all those who value democracy and workers’ rights. Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition, has pledged to repeal the anti-trade union legislation if Labour forms the next government.

Defend Workers’ Rights


Liz Truss has been urged to “come clean” over her plans to attack workers’ rights.

Earlier this week, The Times reported that Truss was considering a review of workers’ protections.

Among the protections to be reviewed by the Truss will be the laws covering the 48-hour working week, adopted as part of the EU working time directive. The strike ballot support threshold may also be raised to 50% of all eligible voters and the strike notice may be extended from two to four weeks.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said Ms. Truss should “come clean” about any such plans.

“Liz Truss’s number one priority should be to help families pay their bills this winter,” Ms. O’Grady said.

“Threatening hard-won workers’ rights is the last thing the country and working people need.”

Petros Elia, general secretary for United Voices of the World, said:

“These measures are designed to try to shut us up and shut us down. But we won’t be intimidated. Britain already has the most stringent anti-union laws in Europe and here workers’ rights are regularly violated according to The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global ranking. We will resist and defeat these attempts to shackle us and turn this country into a worker’s gulag. We urge every single worker out there who is not yet unionised to join us so we can fight as one and win.”

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, commented:

Unions exist to defend the rights of workers. Attacks on these rights will be defeated by the union movement and our small union will play its part.”



Pro-Breixt fire union official unfairly sacked, tribunal finds

Paul Embery has won a claim for unfair dismissal against the Fire Brigades Union – FBU.

He was sacked in relation to a speech he gave in a personal capacity (not as an FBU representative) and in his own private time to a pro-Brexit rally outside parliament in 2019.
Norwich Employment Tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed after a “witch hunt” with a pre-determined outcome.

The tribunal heard there had been regular disagreements between Mr. Embery and FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack over the issue of Brexit. Mr. Embery was warned of reprisals and at one point accused of siding with the ‘far right‘.

The conflict appeared to come to a head as Mr. Embery planned to attend the Leave Means Leave rally in Parliament Square.

Before the rally, the tribunal heard Mr. Embery was told by FBU President Ian Murray that he should not attend as a speaker and that to do so could breach the union’s policy against Brexit, which passed in 2016.

Mr. Murray was also said to have suggested it could contravene a statement prohibiting FBU officials from campaigning with political opponents during the referendum campaign.

Mr. Embery believed Mr. Murray was wrong, and that the policy had lapsed once the referendum was held, the tribunal was told.

The activist was introduced at the rally as an organiser of Trade Unions Against the European Union and used a speech to describe a battle to defend the principle of democracy, after a majority voted to leave the EU in June 2016.

Mr. Embery said in the speech that the “message to the leaders of my movement is, if you want to stay relevant, then it’s about time you put yourself on the side of the people over the establishment and big business, and you better do that damn quickly“.

This is a great victory – on a personal level – for Paul Embery. It’s also a great victory for democracy and the right of ordinary workers & trade unionists to openly speak their minds. Whatever union policy is members and officials should be able to publicly disagree as long as they make it clear that it is their personal view and that they are not speaking on behalf of the union.

All workers deserve rights


The Court of Appeal has ruled that Deliveroo drivers cannot have collective bargaining rights because they are not workers.

The judgment again highlights the need for one category of worker, “worker” with all enjoying the same rights to paid holidays, sick pay, and collective bargaining (to mention just a few rights).
The Deliveroo case was brought by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) which represents many Deliveroo drivers. The IWGB had applied for but that was rejected in 2017 on the basis that because riders can pass a job on to a substitute they should not be classed as workers.

After the High Court also ruled in favour of the company, the union appealed, claiming that the denial of collective bargaining breached the couriers’ human rights.

IWGB president Alex Marshall said: “Deliveroo couriers have been working on the front line of the pandemic and, whilst being applauded by the public and even declared heroes by their employer, they have been working under increasingly unfair and unsafe working conditions.
“It appears that when Deliveroo talks about flexibility and being your own boss, it is talking about the flexibility of choosing when to make poverty wages and work in unsafe conditions.”

Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, commented: “Unions will continue to organise within Deliveroo, Amazon, and those others who seek to block them. Increasingly unions are mobilising public opinion behind their campaigns for workers’ rights. We will see in the coming years that companies who fail to give rights to their workers will be penalised by consumer boycotts and political action.”