Anti-union laws

Defend Our Right to Strike!

Unable to argue against the justice of striking to reinstate wrongfully-sacked Eammon Lynch and Arwyn Thomas, Boris Johnson and cohorts at the Standard resorted to rattling their sabres against our very right to strike.

Unable to argue against the justice of striking to reinstate wrongfully-sacked Eammon Lynch and Arwyn Thomas, Boris Johnson and cohorts at the Standard resorted to rattling their sabres against our very right to strike.

Trade Unions: 

Unions must fight for the right to strike

Tory mayor of London Boris Johnson is campaigning for new laws to make it even more difficult for workers to defend our interests by striking. Prime minister David Cameron has said that he is "open to the idea".

Tory transport minister Philip Hammond responded to the Tube drivers' recent vote to strike against victimisation of union reps by saying (5 May) that "this is only strengthening the hand of those including the Mayor who are calling for tougher industrial relations laws".

The bosses' association CBI has responded (18 May) to the civil service union PCS's move for a strike on 30 June by demanding that the government "get on with it" and bring in new anti-strike laws.

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Government will use troops to break POA strike

The British state is preparing to mobilise the army to break a prison officers' strike if they take action against the privatisation of Birmingham Prison.

Commenting on the proposed privatisation, Prison Officers' Association (POA) leader Steve Gillan said "This is a disgraceful decision. Prisons should not be run for the benefit of shareholders nor for profit. The state has a duty to those imprisoned by the criminal justice system and this coalition government have betrayed loyal public sector workers for their friends in the private sector."

As Birmingham Prison is privatised, Kenneth Clarke has said the "the military are involved" in plans to break any potential strike of prison officers in opposition to the sell-off.

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Trade Unions: 

A Rare Win in Court!

RMT has won a major court victory against injunctions preventing a strike on the Docklands Light Railway; and on the same day, ASLEF also won its appeal against an injunction banning strike action by its members working for London Midland.

RMT has won a major court victory against injunctions preventing a strike on the Docklands Light Railway; and on the same day, ASLEF also won its appeal against an injunction banning strike action by its members working for London Midland.

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BA ballot back on

After calling off its initial ballot over fears of a legal challenge from bosses, Unite has begun the process of re-balloting British Airways cabin crew workers for further strike action.

This strike is not over the job cuts and casualisation that sparked the initial action, but against victimisations and sackings that occurred during the course of the strikes. However, a strong strike could force concessions from BA boss Willie Walsh on those issues and possibly inspire workers with the confidence for a renewed fight on the underlying issues.

After calling off its initial ballot over fears of a legal challenge from bosses, Unite has begun the process of re-balloting British Airways cabin crew workers for further strike action.

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Government to set up strike-breaking unit?

The Daily Mail on 22 February carried an article reporting on “top secret” government plans to undermine strikes, with the Cabinet Office setting up a special “unit” to “prevent Britain grinding to a standstill in the event of mass public sector walkouts.”

The Daily Mail has reported Government plans to set up a strike-breaking centre to supply scab labour in industrial disputes.

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Unite declares ballot unlawful

Unite has declared its own recent ballot of cabin crew workers, which returned a 78.5% majority in favour of strike action, unlawful.

This action sets a new and worrying precedent in the ongoing battle against Britain’s anti-union laws. If Unite, the country’s biggest union, is now so jumpy that it will do the bosses’ and courts’ work for them the ruling class will only grow in confidence.

Unite has declared its own recent ballot of cabin crew workers unlawful.

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Rebuilding solidarity in the trade union movement

Co-ordinated industrial action by trade unions to halt (at least some of) the massive attacks on workers’ jobs and living standards by this Tory-led Government is promoted as the current main demand of the trade union left.

Perhaps it should be, but as Marxists we need to face a few uncomfortable truths about focussing on this strategy alone.

The only co-ordinated action being seriously contemplated by trade union leaders is against the attack on public sector pensions.

There is a collective timidity on the right of the trade union movement in the face of the cuts, and it has a deeply worrying aspect in relation to union rights.

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Cuts fight. Where? On the ground. When? Now.

Cuts

According to the Morning Star, a meeting of all TUC unions on 28 January "united to beat Con-Dem axemen" and "thrashed out plans" for action.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the rail union RMT, one of the TUC's most militant unions, declared that the meeting sent a "clear message" to the government.

Sadly, it's not true. The union leaders reaffirmed the TUC's 26 March demonstration against cuts - but that was already fixed - and beyond that resolved only not to rule out coordinated strikes as a "last resort".

Despite a 28 January meeting of all TUC union leaders, the sharp end of the cuts fight is still in local action.

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Courts and Tories attack right to strike

Courts and the Government are making a two-pronged attack on the right to strike. It becomes more and more urgent for the unions to launch a big political campaign for union rights.

On 19 January, Justice Michael Tugendhat granted Serco Docklands, the operators of the Docklands Light Railway, an injunction (legal order) banning a strike by the rail union RMT due to happen on 20-21 January (see page 2).

Judges’ interpretations have pushed the circumstances in which bosses can get injunctions wider and wider, and this judgment pushed them wider still.

The right to strike is fundamental to workers being able defend themselves. Without that right, tyranny reigns in the workplace.

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Judge extends anti-union laws

A judge has banned a planned strike by RMT members on Docklands Light Railway, issuing an injunction that makes it even harder for trade unions to hold lawful strikes.

RMT balloted members employed by Serco Docklands over several issues, including attacks on pension rights, differences in working hours, and the sacking of two members. The union's ballot did not break existing anti-union law, so the judge announced an extension of the law and declared that the ballot notification did not meet its requirements and therefore the strike could not go ahead!

A judge has banned a planned strike by RMT members on Docklands Light Railway, issuing an injunction that makes it even harder for trade unions to hold lawful strikes.

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Anti-Union Judges Strike Again

A judge has banned the DLR strike that was supposed to happen today and tomorrow - and his ruling further tightens the anti-democratic grip that the anti-union laws have on our right to fight back.

A judge has banned the DLR strike that was supposed to happen today and tomorrow - and his ruling further tightens the anti-democratic grip that the anti-union laws have on our right to fight back.

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Unions must fight Cameron's threat of more anti-strike laws

Strike
Prime minister David Cameron declared in Parliament on 12 January that he was "happy to look at" plans for new anti-strike laws.

Prime minister David Cameron declared in Parliament on 12 January that he was "happy to look at" plans for new anti-strike laws, to come on top of the Thatcher laws which already restrict workers' rights in Britain more than in any other big wealthy country.

Boris Johnson, the Tory mayor of London, and the bosses' federation CBI have already called for harsher laws, specifically a law to ban strikes unless the ballot shows a 40% (CBI) or 50% (Johnson) majority for strike among all those entitled to vote, not just among those voting.

Trade Unions: 

"Level up" the right to strike across Europe!

Strike

Author: 

Stan Crooke
Britain's anti-union laws are among the harshest in Europe - and there are threats of more, both in Britain and other countries. We need a Europe-wide campaign to "level up" the right to strike!

“There will be no return to the trade union laws of the 1970s. Laws banning secondary and flying pickets, on secondary action, on ballots before strikes and for union elections – on all the essential elements of the 1980s laws – will stay,” wrote the then Labour Party leader Tony Blair in an article published in the “Daily Mail” in 1997.

In the same article Blair went on to stress: “Even after the changes the Labour Party is proposing in this area (trade union rights), Britain will remain with the most restrictive trade union laws anywhere in the western world.”

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Miliband rats on union law

John McDonnell MP’s Private Member’s Bill, which would have stopped courts ruling out strike ballots on small technicalities, was defeated in Parliament on 22 October.

Ed Miliband, when standing for Labour leader, volunteered to back moves to stop judges invalidating strike ballots on the basis of minor errors.

But Labour’s front bench refused to back McDonnell’s Bill, and would not mobilise enough Labour MPs to get the Bill on to its next stage.

Ed Miliband, when standing for Labour leader, volunteered to back moves to stop judges invalidating strike ballots on the basis of minor errors. But Labour’s front bench refused to back John McDonnell’s Bill to do just that.

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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Ed Miliband refuses to back John McDonnell's Bill

Author: 

Martin Thomas

John McDonnell MP's Private Member's Bill, which would have stopped courts ruling out strike ballots on small technicalities, was defeated in Parliament on 22 October.

Ed Miliband, when standing for Labour leader, volunteered in a statement to the unions that he would back moves to stop judges invalidating strike ballots on the basis of minor errors.

But Ed Miliband's front bench refused to back McDonnell's Bill, and would not mobilise enough Labour MPs to attend the House of Commons to get the Bill on to its next stage.

Ed Miliband's front bench allowed the Tories to stifle a move in Parliament to stop courts ruling out strike ballots on small technicalities.

Trade Unions: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Fight bosses' drive to shackle the unions!

Author: 

Editorial

Britain already has the tightest and most worker-hostile trade-union laws in the European Union.

And now what do they want to do now, the bosses, sections of the press, and sections of the Tory party? To tighten the laws even further! To hog-tie the workers and our unions even more than we are hog-tied already.

They have the jitters about what the labour movement will do when the details of the government's cuts programme are spelled out on 20 October.

The bosses' "trade union", the Confederation of British Industry, has called for a series of new laws.

The bosses and the Tory press are calling for even harsher anti-union laws.

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Lobby your MP to support McDonnell's Bill

The United Campaign to Repeal the Anti-Trade Union Laws has launched an online lobbying tool to help people persuade their MP to attend the reading of John McDonnell’s Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill.

The bill seeks an end to the ludicrous situation where a minor technicality can be used by employers to get a demonstrably fair ballot result overturned in the courts in order to scupper workers who vote to take industrial action.

John McDonnell’s Bill would stop bosses using minor technicalities to overturn union ballot results.

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Anti-Union Laws

John McDonnell MP presented his Private Members' Bill to parliament on 30 June. If adopted, it would significantly improve unions' ability to defend their members and would be the first step towards the full restoration of trade union rights.

John McDonnell MP presented his Private Members' Bill to parliament on 30 June. If adopted, it would significantly improve unions' ability to defend their members and would be the first step towards the full restoration of trade union rights.

Trade Unions: 

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"The government wants to set up a fight and smash a union"

McDonnell

Author: 

John McDonnell MP
"Now is the time for trade unionists to show some leadership - to explain to people what the consequences are, to tell that there is an alternative but they will have to fight for it".

John McDonnell MP won the MPs' ballot this year to gain the right to present a "Private Member's Bill" - a proposal for legislation, given parliamentary time, coming from an individual MP and not the Government.

He has put down the Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill, and it is due for its second reading on 22 October.

John McDonnell spoke to Solidarity about the Bill and about the whole range of struggles coming up.

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The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

John McDonnell pushes for union rights

John McDonnell, supported by the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group, presented his Private Members' Bill to parliament on 30 June.

If adopted would significantly improve unions' ability to defend their members and would be the first step towards the full restoration of trade union rights.

Sadly, there are no public statements in support of this Bill yet from the leaders of the major unions, or from any of the candidates for Labour leader.

John McDonnell has presented his Bill to Parliament to stop courts outlawing strikes on grounds of minor errors in balloting.

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Trade Unions: 

McDonnell to push Bill

John McDonnell MP has won the ballot among MP for the chance to put a “private member’s Bill” and will propose one to stop employers being able to get strikes declared illegal for minor technical errors in the ballot.

If successful, this would put an end to the ridiculous shenanigans that see strikes and ballots delayed and pantomimes such as Unite's BA cabin crew getting an injunction which was then lifted on appeal. It would reaffirm that it is legal for us to strike for our rights.

John McDonnell MP has won the ballot among MP for the chance to put a “private member’s Bill” and will propose one to stop employers being able to get strikes declared illegal for minor technical errors in the ballot.

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Trade Unions: 

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Support This Pro-Union Bill

John McDonnell MP is to propose a Bill in Parliament to stop employers being able to get strikes declared illegal for minor technical errors in the ballot.

John McDonnell MP is to propose a Bill in Parliament to stop employers being able to get strikes declared illegal for minor technical errors in the ballot.

Trade Unions: 

Tubeworker topics: 

Anti-union laws: fight for working-class democracy

Author: 

Ira Berkovic

Unite's victory in appealing against the second injunction given against strikes by British Airways workers was extremely significant. If the injunction had been allowed to stand, it would have served as an invitation to bosses across both the public and private sector to seek court bans against any big strike in their workplace and a message that, no matter how spurious the grounds on which they sought that injunction were, they were likely to have it granted.

The anti-union laws are based fundamentally on the assumption that the ruling-class has a right to rule. We need to challenge that assumption.

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British Airways strike: the Flying Bike Picket

Author: 

A Workers Climate Action activist

Workers’ Climate Action hosted a “critical mass” cycle ride around Heathrow on 22 May. The event was planned to coincide with the British Airways cabin crew strikes.

After a petty legal skirmish earlier in the week, it was not certain whether a Flying Bike Picket would actually be picketing anyone. In the event though, the mass was a colourful and musical display of creative solidarity and highlighted the current threat to our collective right to strike.

Workers’ Climate Action staged a “critical mass” cycle ride around Heathrow on 22 May to coincide with the British Airways cabin crew strikes.

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What do the anti-union laws say?

Author: 

Dave Kirk

When activists refer to the “anti-union laws”, we are talking about a whole series of acts brought in by the Thatcher and Major governments between 1980 and 1996, which the Labour government of 1997-2010 did nothing to challenge. Each new act built on its predecessors in often quite elaborate ways to restrict the ability of workers to strike and organise effectively. But what do they actually say?

Balloting

An overview of the anti-union laws introduced by the Tories in the 1980's and 1990's and retained by the Labour government over the last thirteen years.

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Anti-union laws: "workers must defy injunctions"

Author: 

Gregor Gall, Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Hertfordshire

What’s happening is three things. The first is that in disputes which involve large numbers of workers, the possibility of being able to apply for an injunction based on a failure in the balloting process is that much greater.

More workers involved means more complexity in meeting the legal requirements, especially where there are many different grades of worker and they work at many different workplaces.

What we need is defiance of injunctions by union members through unofficial action, making the the anti-union laws both a dead letter and a live, tangible issue which other workers can relate to.

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Journalists against the anti-union laws

Author: 

Will Lodge

On 19 May, journalists at Johnston Press became the latest workers to fall victim of a High Court injunction against planned strike action, on the basis of ballot discrepancies.

Bizarrely Johnston Press, which owns many titles across the UK including the Sheffield Star, managed to convince the court that it employs no journalists, and that to be lawful industrial action needs to be balloted for against each individual subsidiary company. This despite company literature proclaiming that it employs 1,900.

On 19 May, journalists at Johnston Press became the latest workers to fall victim of a High Court injunction against planned strike action on the basis of ballot discrepancies.

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What About The Ballots?

It was good news that the court overturned the ridiculous injunction against the British Airways cabin crew strike. If the court had upheld the injunction, it would have sent a message to all employers that they can ban ANY strike with the flimsiest pretext.

There is no justice in Britain's anti-union laws. They exist for no other reason than to prevent workers from exercising our right to strike.

It was good news that the court overturned the ridiculous injunction against the British Airways cabin crew strike. If the court had upheld the injunction, it would have sent a message to all employers that they can ban ANY strike with the flimsiest pretext.

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