12 March 2014
The Institute salutes the memory of Bob Crow.
The Institute of Employment Rights and its sister organisation the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom, is devastated to hear of the loss of Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT and a giant of the labour movement.
Bob was a man of principle. He never wavered in his determination to represent not just his members but his class. He understood that to do that job properly he needed to fight the anti trade union laws that continue to bind unions in chains.
When the Institute of Employment Rights was established in 1989, the NUR, a forerunner of the RMT, was a founder member under the leadership of Jimmy Knapp. That support grew even stronger under the leadership of Bob Crow, who was a frequent speaker on IER platforms.
Bob, and John Hendy QC, Chair of the IER, were instrumental in creating the United Campaign for the Repeal of Anti Trade Union Laws in 1998. Bob was its first Chairman and John its Secretary. It was under their leadership that the United Campaign organised one of its most successful campaigns – the Campaign for a Trade Union Freedom Bill.
Bob knew that tinkering around the edges of ‘the most restrictive laws on trade unions in the western world’ wouldn’t deliver for the working class. What was needed was a new framework of labour law fit for the 21st century.
Always ahead of his time, Bob gave his full support to the campaign for a Trade Union Freedom Bill. It is a travesty that the Bill, crafted by John Hendy QC and Professor Keith Ewing, supported by the TUC and valiantly steered through Parliamentary procedures by John McDonnell, MP, never reached the statute book.
Writing about the need for a Bill in Federation News in 2006 Bob wrote:
‘The Trade Union Freedom Bill is an idea whose time is long overdue….. This year is a particularly appropriate one in which to redouble our efforts for the Trade Union Freedom Bill …100 years since the Trade Disputes Act 1906 gave workers protection against imprisonment or having their unions’ funds seized for taking strike action……it is to our nation’s shame that under a Labour government Britain’s workers should have to campaign to restore rights that were won a century ago.
In the 21st century we need modern employment laws, not a throwback to Victorian times.’
Bob understood that trade union rights are human rights. He took his fight for trade union freedoms through the courts, right up to the European Court of Human Rights. He had to. The restrictive nature of UK laws meant that despite winning the support of his members, bosses were too often able to stop strikes by Court injunctions, using the restrictive balloting laws introduced by Thatcher.
When the United Campaign merged with the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions in 2012, Bob became President of the new organisation, the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom.
He will be greatly missed but never forgotten. In his memory both the IER and the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom will renew the call for a framework of law that better protects the vulnerable majority in our society.