John McDonnell says Labour would rip up Thatcher-era trade union laws banning 'sympathy strikes'

Posted On: 
9th December 2018

Labour would scrap laws that prevent British workers from striking in support of counterparts in other countries, John McDonnell has said.

John McDonnell hit out at Thatcher-era strike laws
Credit: 
PA Images

The Shadow Chancellor told activists in Scotland that legislation brought in under Margaret Thatcher’s government had undermined “collective action and acts of solidarity” and would be scrapped if the party took power.

“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,” he said.

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It came as he hailed the “momentous” action taken by workers at the East Kilbride Rolls-Royce plant in the 1970s, when they refused to repair Hunter Hawker planes used by Chilean dictator general Pinochet’s airforce.

The action was recently commemorated in the film Nae Pasaran and was praised by Mr McDonnell as demonstrating “an effective blow against the Pinochet regime and its brutality against its own people".

The Labour frontbencher said the workers had carried out a “courageous and humane act against the horrors of the Pinochet years”.

“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,” he added.

“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.”

Elsewhere Mr McDonnell said a Labour government would “transform the world of work” by “providing security, decent pay and equal rights for people from day one, including sick pay, holiday pay and protection against unfair dismissal”.