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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 February 2010

Port workers battle bosses... and high court

Around 50 pilots and other crew members at Milford Haven dock in south Wales are in dispute with the port authority over pensions. Management want to drop the final salary scheme in favour of an average earnings scheme. The members of Unite balloted for strike action and planned a two-day strike for last week.

Socialist Party Wales correspondents

But then the High Court intervened and blocked the strike on the basis that the "balance of convenience" favoured the port authority. This has angered many rank and file workers, adding to their anger when the BA cabin crew strike was stopped by the court before Christmas.

The Milford Haven workers are responsible for moving large ships in and out of the port, which is the site of two oil refineries, two gas terminals and the UK's largest petroleum tank farm.

Companies like BA and Milford Haven port authority can attack workers' jobs, terms and conditions and pensions and then take away the right to strike. We now face the prospect of a real dictatorship of the employers at a time of greater attacks on workers as a result of the recession.

Already the procedure for legal ballots is a nightmare. It takes ages to produce an accurate list of members. Even if a strike goes ahead, the bosses will have had the best part of two months' notice to prepare. The unions jump through hoops to comply with the law yet even this is not enough.

13 years of New Labour and still these laws which were brought in by Thatcher remain on the statute book. In fact, if anything they are even more of an obstacle than under the Tories. Yet unions like Unite give ever more money to New Labour. They won't even threaten to withdraw the funds to put pressure on Labour to repeal the laws.

Scandalously, the Wales TUC have been silent about the issue. They are more concerned about not embarrassing their New Labour friends than campaigning against the judgement.

However, despite the leaders, these rulings have created a huge debate about the link with the Labour Party within the Labour-affiliated unions.

Unite named another strike day for 23 February but this has now been suspended for talks. The suspension will last for 28 days.

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