Return our rights or we’ll take them back by force was the ultimatum delivered at the launch of the new Campaign for Trade Union Freedom in central London on Saturday.
Over 250 people overcame weather chaos to attend the rally at Friends Meeting House in Euston.
Speaker after speaker rammed home a defiant message to politicians who oversee some of the most draconian union laws in the developed world.
Top lawyer John Hendy explained the stark impact of the political assault on trade unions which saw the number of workers protected by collective agreements on wages and conditions plummet from 82 per cent in 1979 to just 23 per cent in 2011.
The gap between the rich and the rest has grown massively at the same time.
“Eight out of 10 workers are at the mercy and whims of employers,” he said.
“That’s why we need trade union freedom. We need the right to strike to restore collective bargaining.
“Without collective bargaining we’re reduced to serfdom.”
NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney, whose union has announced joint strike action with NASUWT, set out the challenge facing teachers as Education Secretary Michael Gove seeks to exploit Thatcher-era laws banning “solidarity” action to smash professional opposition to his policies.
Under the academies system teachers are taken out of national bargaining, explained Mr Courtney.
“An attack in one school could easily spread to other schools, but it will be illegal to take action.
“Gove thinks that by atomising teachers he can destroy our industrial strength – we’re going to show him the opposite.”
New Labour’s 13-year failure to free unions of their shackles was also roundly condemned from the platform.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said Labour was “at a crossroads.”
He asked: “Is the Labour Party still our voice in Parliament?
“Ed Miliband to answer that has to show he’s on side with a radical programme – a programme that includes the return of trade union rights.”
Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Bob Crow branded the freedom to organise a basic human right.
But the current situation allows bosses to make “mass profits at the expense of keeping workers’ wages lower.”
And the NUJ’s Anita Halpin warned: “Union rights on all fronts are in the firing line. We need this campaign. We need to stand together like never before.”
For more information on the campaign visit www.tradeunionfreedom.co.uk