McCluskey warns on right to strike
The leader of Britain's biggest trade union has warned that the right to strike is "hanging by a thread" and faces further attacks if the Conservatives win the general election.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said the time had come to ask whether unions could stay within the law any longer.
In a speech to lawyers he said the Tory party was planning further measures to silence opposition to attacks on jobs and public services.
Such are Unite's concerns, the union's executive is recommending to members that the words "so far as may be lawful" are removed from the rules governing the union's actions, he said.
The move was in recognition that a Tory government will introduce laws to prevent working people mounting a "decent defence" against employer abuse.
"This proposed change in the constitution of the biggest union on these isles marks the sorry place we have reached in our national democracy.
"These words will go not because we are anarchists, not because we are suddenly planning a bank robbery - but because we have to ask ourselves the question, can we any longer make that commitment to, under any and all circumstances, stick within the law as it stands?
"Unite remains determined to operate ever more effectively within the law, even when that law is an ass and ill-serves our people. But restricting the right to strike, attacking the capacity for trade unions to organise and conduct our own business in line with our own rules, belong to last century's consensus. They fail working people today," he said.
Mr McCluskey said trade union law had remained untouched, adding that the Tories will make it harder to strike if they gain power by raising the threshold on ballots.
"It is no exaggeration to say that the right to strike in this - the first country of free trade unionism - was and is hanging by a thread.
"But should there be a Conservative majority in May, there will be a new attack on trade union rights and democracy.
"The bar for a strike ballot will be raised to a level which hardly any MPs would get over in their own constituencies, by a government which has refused our requests to use modern, more effective balloting methods.
"When the law is misguided, when it oppresses the people and removes their freedoms, can we respect it? I am not really posing the question. I'm giving you the answer. It ain't going to happen."
Unite activists will decide on the change of wording to the union's rules at a conference later in the year.