A photo of Green Party campaigners in Bristol

Members of the Green Party of England and Wales will be electing a new deputy leader this summer. There are four candidates in the running, all of whom are being asked by groups inside and outside the party to make a range of different pledges and commitments.

One of those pledges is from the Free Our Unions campaign, which calls for a repeal of the UK’s anti-trade union legislation. Three candidates have so far signed the pledge, which involves “supporting workers’ strikes and struggles”, “helping to mobilise party members on picket lines”, and “proactively campaigning” against any new anti-union laws.

The pledge also commits candidates to campaign for legal rights to strike to be included in the next Green Party general election manifesto. Examples of commitments include removing undue balloting restrictions and bans on secondary picketing.

Nick Humberstone, Zack Polanski and Tyrone Scott have all signed the pledge. Shahrar Ali, the fourth candidate in the election had not signed the pledge at the time of publication.

The candidates’ pledges come as the Tory government threatens new restrictions on the right to strike. Under current proposals, the trade unions’ regulator – the Certification Officer – would have increased powers to fine unions that fall foul of stringent restrictions on lawful industrial action. The new law is widely considered to be intended as a barrier to ambitious union action.

Earlier in July the Tory government changed the law to enable agency workers to break strikes in what ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan dubbed a “scab’s charter”. The move was roundly condemned by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) as well as agency employers’ body the World Employment Confederation.

The Tories’ 2019 general election manifesto included a so-called ‘minimum service law’, which would compel unions in strategic sectors like transport to break their own strike using some of their members – or risk huge fines.

Commenting on the decision of three of the deputy leadership candidates to sign the pledge, chair of the Green Party Trade Union Group Matthew Hull, described it as “a hugely positive development” for the party. He told Bright Green, 

As more and more unions commit to industrial action to defend members’ jobs, pay and conditions, it’s vital we shine a light on the UK’s draconian anti-union laws.

The UK places eye-watering limits on unions’ ability to strike effectively and without detriment. The UK has no formal legal right to strike and picket, thanks to what Tony Blair approvingly branded Europe’s most restrictive trade union laws.

The Green Party has been among the loudest and most consistent supporters of workers fighting for decent pay during the mounting cost-of-living crisis. It’s hugely reassuring that so many candidates for Deputy Leader are committing to inject democracy into the workplace and reject the ‘dictatorship of the boss’, by supporting positive union rights.

Free Our Unions is a group of trade unionists campaigning for the repeal of all anti-union and anti-strike laws, and for their replacement with positive trade union rights and freedoms. It was formed by Lambeth Unison and has been supported by the FBU, PCS, RMT and IWGB trade unions at a national level.

The Green Party has taken an ambitious approach to supporting labour in recent weeks, expressing support for RMT strike action across the railways and calling for wage and benefit increases across the economy to address rising prices.

This follows recent votes at Green Party conference, which have supported landmark campaigns for improved pay, including NHS workers’ demands for a restorative 15% pay rise in 2020 and the Bakers’ Union (BFAWU) campaign for a £15 minimum wage.

The party has also attracted criticism from some in its membership after it appeared to avoid the £15 minimum wage figure in a public message on International Workers’ Day – referring to a previous manifesto figure instead.

PS. We hope you enjoyed this article. Bright Green has got big plans for the future to publish many more articles like this. You can help make that happen. Please donate to Bright Green now.

Image credit: Matthew Phillip Long – Creative Commons