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19 February 2010
High Court ruling stops Milford Haven workers' strike to protect pensions
The High Court ruling to stop the Unite union's strike this week by port workers in Milford Haven will anger many rank and file workers throughout the country.
Welsh Unite member
This follows quite a few recent examples, most notably British Airways' cabin crew. British Airways (BA) management argued that there were mistakes with the ballot procedure. Actually, it was almost impossible for Unite to conduct an absolutely accurate ballot because BA were letting people leave on voluntary redundancy in the middle of the vote and wouldn't give the union these names.
At least there were thousands of workers at BA, where the risk of some minimal inaccuracies were possible, in Milford Haven there were only 50 workers!
These legal rulings raise the prospect of the majority of legal ballots being contested and then defeated.
Companies like BA and Milford Haven Port Authority can attack workers' jobs, terms & 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.
Thirteen years of New Labour and still these laws, which were brought in by Thatcher, remain on the statue book.
In fact, if anything they are even more of an obstacle than under the Tories. Yet what are the conclusions of unions like Unite? They give ever more money to New Labour and campaign for Brown & co.
They won't even threaten to withdraw the funds to put pressure on Labour to repeal the laws. However, despite the leaders, these rulings have created a huge debate about the Labour link within the pro-Labour unions.
The Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is raising the need for a new workers' party in the forthcoming election.
Correctly, Unite has named another strike day. These workers should be supported by all trade unionists in Wales and throughout the UK. If the company go again to the courts and succeed, Unite should call an all-Wales demo in Milford haven the following Saturday to defend trade union democracy. The Milford Haven workers should be supported if they decided to ignore the laws and go on strike anyway. The Wales TUC should mobilise support for them if they did.There has been a scandalous silence by the Wales TUC about this issue. Wales TUC leaders seem to be more concerned about not embarassing their New Labour friends than campaigning against the judgement.
Unite should support these and any workers who take unofficial action if they are blocked by the courts.
The tremendous national and international campaign to successfully defend Rob Williams, Unite convenor at the Linamar Plant in Swansea and Socialist Party member after he was sacked for trade union activities last year showed that workers are prepared to fight blatant anti-union acts.
While it is vital that these actions and the laws themselves are challenged, the unofficial industrial actions which won victories at Lindsey and Visteon last year show that when workers are prepared to fight and are given a lead, the laws can be overcome.
- Rob Williams is standing as a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in Swansea
- TUSC is holding its Welsh launch in the Railway Club in Swansea's Wind Street at 7.30pm on Thursday March 4th. The two candidates will be amongst the speakers.
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