Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/661/11333

From The Socialist newspaper, 9 March 2011

Fighting the anti-trade union laws

South Wales RMT signal workers on strike , photo Socialist Party Wales

South Wales RMT signal workers on strike , photo Socialist Party Wales

The appeal court in London has overruled a previous high court judgement that blocked the RMT calling its members from the Dockland Light Railway (DLR) out on strike. This was almost at the same time as the workers at the BP Hull biofuel plant construction site took unofficial action in response to the management's breaking of the national agreements.

Bill Mullins

What links these two incidents are the lessons that flow from them for the trade union movement which stands on the brink of the biggest struggle in this country for decades.

The construction workers, working on a site that is time critical, had the upper hand over their bosses. In this instance this was because they acted immediately rather than waiting for their union leaders to call official strike action.

If they had waited it would have meant, at the minimum, waiting for 28 days whilst the union put in place all its legally defined procedures. This includes drawing up a list of potential strikers and showing it to the employers.

British Airways cabin crew on strike at Heathrow airport, photo Paul Mattsson

British Airways cabin crew on strike at Heathrow airport, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The unions also have to catalogue where the workers work and what grade they hold. They then have to show the ballot paper to the bosses, then give seven days notice of the strike, once the result is in. At any stage in this process the bosses can challenge the union in court asking for an injunction to stop the action, as happened at BA and in RMT disputes.

The construction engineers knew that going down this route just plays into the hands of the bosses, who would be free to make workers redundant without any interference from the union. But their prompt action meant the employers had to rapidly retreat.

Lindsey Oil Refinery workers strike, photo Sean Figg

Lindsey Oil Refinery workers strike, photo Sean Figg   (Click to enlarge)

This is what happened in 2009 in the Lindsey oil refinery workers' strike, which involved some of the same workers who took action last week at BP Saltend.

The RMT, one of the most militant unions in the land, won their battle in the appeal court. The court accepted that the union had acted legally in the way it conducted its ballot of its DLR members.

The difference this time to the original court findings was that the judges knew that if they continued down this road, blocking nearly all the legal roads to strike action, then the workers would begin to draw the same conclusion as the construction workers did - if we can't take legal action then we'll take unofficial action.

It might not have been the DLR workers this time but sooner or later that is what other groups of workers will do.

Anti-union laws

The RMT points out that British trade unions are restricted by some of the worst anti-union laws in the western world. Whilst not unnecessarily jeopardising union finances, painfully built up over previous decades by members' sacrifices, the union leaders need to be flexible and be prepared to act when required.

The RMT does not make a fetish of the law and does not use the law to block their members taking action if it can help it. But that is not the case in many other unions.

Unison does not allow its branches to initiate strike ballots, maintaining that only the regional officers can do so. Far too often the result is that branches either never get the ballot authorised, or it takes so long that the original reason for it has long been forgotten and the employer gets away without opposition from the union. This leads to demoralisation and members' lack of confidence in their own union.

But this will not always be the case. Tens of thousands of workers in the public sector, in councils and the health service, face massive attacks on their jobs and conditions.

They will not stand idly by whilst the employers do what they want. If the union leaders do not give a lead and organise official strike action from above then it will happen from below, without the union backing and despite the anti-trade union laws.


Lindsey, Visteon, Linamar

lessons from the disputes of Spring 2009. Articles from the Socialist.
2 including postage
Available from Left Books , PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD or www.leftbooks.co.uk or ring 020 8988 8789

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 9 March 2011:


Anti-cuts campaign

We can stop cuts!

Rage against all cuts!

Labour councils should fight cuts, not implement them!

Demonstrations against council cuts


Socialist Party youth and students

For a fighting student leadership

Jarrow march for jobs: Why Hull is marching

Students sit in at Sheffield


International socialist news and analysis

Middle East uprisings: The unfinished revolutions


Socialist Party news and analysis

Lib Dems 'get a kicking' in Barnsley

Wales votes 'yes' but workers' party needed

Lewisham: Vote for a real fight against the cuts

Cardiff march and rally against cuts

Brighton: Labour and Green Party councillors fail to stop Tory budget

Tories allow growth of Murdoch media empire

TUC must address demo access issue

Fast news


Socialist Party workplace news

BP Hull Saltend construction workers win victory through strike action

Fighting the anti-trade union laws

UCU members vote for action on pensions, jobs and pay

Unison expulsion

Workplace news in brief

Take out a May Day greeting!


Socialist Party feature

Casualties of cuts - and a rotten system

Needed: a fair deal for carers!

Care - condition critical


 

Home   |   The Socialist 9 March 2011   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Trade union:

triangleStrike wins biggest pay rise in ten years

triangle2018: more upheavals loom

triangleObituary: Derek Robinson, car workers' leader, 1927-2017

triangleNew play celebrates Grunwick strike

triangleAslef members must reject poor Southern Rail offer

Strike:

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleRMT strikes against driver-only operation continue

triangleHackney school cleaners strike

triangleHome care workers to strike

RMT:

triangleRMT rail members buoyed by coordinated action

triangleStrike against driver-only operation on five rail networks

triangleAnti-DOO lobby of Liverpool's transport committee

Construction:

triangleFerrybridge: Workers down tools over unpaid wages

triangleCarillion crisis: demand action to save jobs and services

Unions:

triangleAppeal from Iranian independent unions

Construction workers:

triangleSupport the Crossrail Woolwich walkout

BP:

triangle2016 hottest year on record, air poisonous

Anti-union laws:

triangleRoyal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

Lindsey Oil Refinery:

triangleTrade unions: myths of EU 'Remain' campaign

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

17/1/18

Labour

Corbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

17/1/18

Trump

Victory! Trump's UK visit cancelled by fear of protests

17/1/18

NHS

NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

15/1/18

Carillion

Carillion crisis: demand action to save jobs and services

10/1/18

Tories

Cabinet chaos as shambolic reshuffle underlines Theresa May's impotence

10/1/18

NHS

Sustained mass movement needed to stop Tories wrecking our NHS

10/1/18

Education

Bigot Toby Young quits - now scrap the new uni regulator driving privatisation

10/1/18

Them & Us

Them & Us

10/1/18

Teachers

Teacher recruitment falls by a third - cut workload, not funding

3/1/18

Fire service

Fire service victory

3/1/18

Fares

Rail: fares up, bosses' pay up - delays and cancellations up

3/1/18

Higher Education

Mobilise against rip-off executive pay

3/1/18

Virgin

NHS in winter crisis as Branson creams off 1bn

3/1/18

Homes

Thousands live in tents and sheds - seize empty homes

3/1/18

Fat cats

Widening wealth gap, increase in poverty...make the fat cats pay

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle16 Jan Home care workers to strike

triangle15 Jan Carillion crisis: Demand action to save jobs and services

triangle12 Jan Outrage against 'monster block' plan

triangle12 Jan Mini-strike wave continues and intensifies

triangle10 Jan Strike wins biggest pay rise in ten years

triangle10 Jan Movement of workers and youth challenges Iranian regime

triangle10 Jan Cabinet chaos as shambolic reshuffle underlines Theresa May's...

More ...

triangle18 Jan Waltham Forest Socialist Party: How do we get Corbyn's policies into Waltham Forest council?

triangle18 Jan Southampton Socialist Party: Is there a global nuclear threat?

triangle18 Jan Swansea Socialist Party: Is there a threat of nuclear war?

triangle18 Jan Cardiff East Socialist Party: Building Socialism in Cardiff East

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2