Labour would axe law banning union action in ‘solidarity’ with workers overseas

Labour would scrap trade union laws barring workers in the UK from taking industrial action in solidarity with their counterparts in other countries, the shadow chancellor has announced.

John McDonnell pledged when the party is returned to government laws introduced by Margaret Thatcher to restrict the rights of unions would be repealed.

The legislation undermines the ability of workers to take “collective action and acts of solidarity”, he said.

Abolishing it would mean “workers can revive the spirit of the Rolls-Royce workers in East Kilbride” who “struck a blow against the brutal Pinochet dictatorship” in Chile in the 1970s.

Mr McDonnell pledged: “When we go back into government we will restore trade union rights, and that will enable workers to take similar sympathy action on the basis of supporting fellow workers internationally.”

The shadow chancellor made the commitment during a visit to Scotland, where he hailed the “momentous” action taken by workers at the Rolls Royce plant.

The Hunter Hawker planes the Chilean airforce used were powered by engines built at the South Lanarkshire factory, but workers there refused to repair them.

The action, which has been recently commemorated in the film Nae Pasaran, was a “fantastic example of the operation of trade union rights”, Mr McDonnell said.

He added: “It was an effective blow against the Pinochet regime and its brutality against its own people”.

Mr McDonnell praised the East Kilbride workers for carrying out a “courageous and humane act against the horrors of the Pinochet years”.

He said: “The action taken by the Rolls Royce workers at East Kilbride was a momentous act of solidarity by Scottish workers in the aftermath of Chilean junta’s overthrow of a democratically-elected government and the torturing and killing of civilians and those who opposed it.

“Such collective action and acts of solidarity have been attacked and undermined by restrictive anti-union laws started in the 1980s under Thatcher’s Tory government.

“The next Labour government will ensure workers can revive the spirit of the Rolls-Royce workers in East Kilbride, when they struck a blow against the brutal Pinochet dictatorship.

“In this way, we will open the next chapter of democratic society by enhancing democracy at work.”

Mr McDonnell continued: “Our programme of workplace reform will restore the balance between employer and worker, and it will do so by installing basic trade union rights in law again.

“A Labour government will transform the world of work, providing security, decent pay and equal rights for people from day one, including sick pay, holiday pay and protection against unfair dismissal.

“We will introduce a new Ministry of Labour to give workers a voice in parliament, sectoral collective bargaining to raise wages and conditions, and repeal dangerous anti-trade union legislation.”