By Peter Lazenby
RAIL workers will protest outside Parliament on Thursday to oppose a new wave of repressive anti-union legislation against their right to strike.
The Queen’s Speech is expected to include plans to outlaw full-scale strikes by rail workers and others — adding to already draconian British anti-union laws which are the most severe in Western Europe.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “We will be kicking off the fightback against their new raft of anti-union laws.”
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan accused the government of “declaring war” on transport workers.
Mark Fairhurst, chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) — whose members are already forbidden to strike by law — called for a general strike led by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
The protest has been organised by RMT, whose members are fighting to prevent the removal of safety-critical guards from trains.
RMT members at South Western Railway are currently taking 27 days of strike action over the issue.
Mr Cash said: “It hasn’t taken long for the true colours of this new Tory government to emerge and today we will be kicking off the fightback against their new raft of anti-union laws.
“Nobody should be under any illusions about the scale of the threat now being lined up against the trade union movement.
“Banning strikes and denying workers the basic human right to withdraw their labour has been the hallmark of hard-right, authoritarian regimes throughout history.
“It is no coincidence that this threat comes while our members on South Western Railway are continuing a month of rock-solid action in defence of the basic principle of a rail service that is safe and accessible for all.”
Mr Whelan said: “This is nothing less than a declaration of war on transport workers.
“No trade unionist takes industrial action lightly, but we need that option to prevent bad employers riding roughshod over our working conditions and safety.
“This idea shows that this right-wing authoritarian Tory government sees transport workers as the enemy, not as stakeholders in the rail industry.”
He said the government is “all in favour of deregulation — until it comes to trade unions, when they enforce ever more draconian laws to stop working people holding bad bosses to account.”
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “Already workers who intend to take industrial action are required to jump through a huge number of legal hoops in order to be able to take legal action.”
POA chairman Mark Fairhurst said: “The TUC must not stand by and accept this. We cannot accept what is happening to the rail workers. They must not be left to stand alone.
“We already have a TUC policy for a general strike, proposed by the POA and seconded by [former RMT general secretary] Bob Crow. It was supported by Congress and we should not be afraid to use it.”
Thursday’s protest begins at 12.30pm by Parliament Square in Westminster.