Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.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:

triangleFar right seen off at Oxford Circus

triangleNSSN conference 2019: at the heart of trade union struggle

triangleLondon: COPS trade union conference

triangleGig-economy exploitation doubles

triangleHull trade union festival a great success

Strike:

trianglePro-democracy protests continue to rage

triangleBradford: All-out action to defeat backdoor NHS privatisation

triangleHealth workers strike against 2,000 loss of pay

triangleHull: Karro Food meat processors strike against poverty pay

RMT:

triangleSalisbury South Western Rail strikers determined

triangleManchester: RMT transport workers' conference fringe meeting

triangleBluestar bus drivers' strike over pay

Construction:

triangleSocialist Party member Janet Gibson advertising NSSN conference at a protest of steel construction workers outside a Siemans factory in Lincoln (click for report)

triangleTen years since Lindsey strike: when militant action stopped the 'race to the bottom'

Unions:

triangleDundee: young workers meet

Construction workers:

triangleChina: Impressive, coordinated and daring crane drivers' strikes

BP:

triangleBuild student unions and walkouts to fight climate change and Trump!

Anti-union laws:

trianglePCS union: listen to members, link the campaigns - we can win fight on pay

Lindsey Oil Refinery:

triangleTrade unions: myths of EU 'Remain' campaign

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

14/8/19

General election

General election looms... Capitalists in chaos: Fight for socialism

14/8/19

NHS

Tory bribes don't hide destruction of NHS

14/8/19

General election

Boot out Boris and all the Tory toffs - fight for socialist policies for the 99% not the 0.1%

31/7/19

Climate change

Tories look in wrong place for climate solutions

31/7/19

Tories

Build a working-class movement to force an election

31/7/19

Liberal Democrats

Lib Dems: little bosses' party elects eager pro-austerity leader

31/7/19

Council

Labour promises to end council privatisation: councils must do that now!

31/7/19

Universal Credit

Fighting Universal Credit

31/7/19

CWI

CWI refounded with determination and confidence

30/7/19

Brexit

Boris, Brexit and British capitalism

21/7/19

CWI

Socialist Party conference reaffirms the CWI's historic approach

17/7/19

General election

Stop Boris - General election now

17/7/19

Them & Us

Them & Us

17/7/19

Universal Credit

Fraudsters thrive and claimants suffer in despicable Universal Credit scam

12/7/19

Labour

The landowning establishment

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999