Anti-union laws

The role of leverage

Submitted by AWL on 19 November, 2013 - 12:04

We continue our discussion of the lessons of the Grangemouth defeat. Here, a contribution from Mark Best discusses how Unite’s “Organising and Leverage Department” can help win disputes.

Football pundits are fond of pointing out that it is not so much the defeat itself that teaches you anything meaningful about a team, but how they react to it in the matches that follow. Much the same could be said about Unite and the left following Grangemouth.

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High Court blow for unions

Submitted by AWL on 19 August, 2013 - 3:43

A High Court Judge has ruled that two of the actions in an RMT campaign of industrial action "short of a strike" at East Midlands Trains are unlawful, as they technically compromise strike action and are therefore not covered by the union's ballot for action short.

RMT balloted its East Midlands Trains members for the action in a dispute over a range of issues relating to major upgrade work at Nottingham station. As part of the action, members refused to work various turns and duties outside their agreed rosters - effectively a form of "work to rule".

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"Fellow workers, comrades... we won!" Bob Carnegie charges dropped!

Submitted by AWL on 15 August, 2013 - 9:16

On Friday 16 August, contempt of court charges were dropped against Bob Carnegie, the Workers' Liberty Australia member and union activist prosecuted for assisting a construction strike in Brisbane in August-October 2012.

2,000 construction workers stopped work to attend a solidarity demonstration at the Federal Court in Brisbane, with around 100 cramming into the courtroom and erupting into applause when the judge announced the verdict.

He ruled that the terms of construction company Abigroup's injunction, aimed at keeping Bob away from the construction site, were not sufficiently clear.

Emerging from court, Bob said: "Fellow workers, comrades, case dismissed. We won."

The fight to defend Bob is not entirely over, as he still faces a civil case brought against him by Abigroup, but today's win a huge step forward and signal to bullying bosses that they cannot intimidate activists out of building solidarity with workers' struggles.

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Bad precedent

Submitted by AWL on 27 May, 2013 - 11:41

The Victoria branch of the construction section of Australia's big CFMEU union has been found guilty of contempt of court after it failed to comply with “restraining orders” issued to prevent it blockading construction sites in Melbourne in August and September 2012.

The sites (the Myer Emporium site and the Footscray site) were operated by construction company Grocon. CFMEU’s grievance related to issues of health and safety on the sites.

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Now bury Thatcherism

Submitted by Matthew on 16 April, 2013 - 8:54

What we hold against Margaret Thatcher is not that she was “divisive”. We, revolutionary socialists, are “divisive” too — only we want to rally the worse-off to defeat the rich, while Thatcher rallied the rich to defeat the worse-off.

In a recent opinion poll, a clear majority (60%) thought that the taxpayer should not cover the cost of Thatcher’s funeral, and an equally clear majority, 59% to 18%, thought “Thatcher was the most divisive Prime Minister this country has had that I can remember”.

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Thatcher: now her politics must die

Submitted by Matthew on 10 April, 2013 - 9:22

If we believed in a hell, we would have no doubt Margaret Thatcher would now be in it.

Now we must send to hell, too, the politics which she represented.

Labour leader Ed Miliband declared that: “We greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength”.

With a low-key comment that he “disagreed” a bit with Thatcher, he said that she had “moved the centre ground of British politics”. That, from a Labour leadership always keen to claim that it is occupying that same “centre ground”.


Submitted by Clive on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 09:32

Obviously you can get different data from different sources. But according to this set of data - - your figures for inflation are wrong. Inflation in the UK was on average about 13%, as against 11% in the US. Both this figure for the US and, for instance, 33% for Chile, suggest that in any case inflation can't be explained by the government being 'a soft touch for the unions', most militant trade unionists in Chile being either in jail, in exile, or dead.

Submitted by AWL on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 10:10

The years cited should have been 1955-73 - now corrected.

In the late 70s-early 80s there was something odd going on - unions may have been unpopular on one level, and yet more and more people joined them. By the end of the 70s union density rose to 57 per cent, the highest level in British history so far and an incredible figure for a relatively large economy like Britain. And of course more and more people took action too (in other words, lots of people who said they disliked strikes must have taken part in one themselves).

Moreover, at several points in the early 80s, Thatcher was very unpopular and with appropriate political initiative could have been driven from office. Perhaps even just by an election - she got lucky with the Falklands war. Certainly if the miners had defeated her government in all-out battle then things would have gone very differently.

Lastly, union density and the labour movement more generally have risen and fallen in Britain many times over many decades - going back almost two hundred years. Why do you think the recent fall is lasting and decisive? Actually the labour movement is still much bigger than for almost all of those two hundred years.

Sacha Ismail

Submitted by Clive on Fri, 04/19/2013 - 09:12

My point about Chile is that inflation can't be explained by trade unions fighting for wage increases. (Throughout the Wilson/Callaghan government, btw, there was a so-called Social Contract incomes policy, and even if you want to argue that it failed - the TUC eventually voted for a return to collective bargaining, as I recall, its failure would be insufficient to explain inflation. The whole world economy experienced 'stagflation' in the 1970s. The other thing usually blamed for inflation is the oil price increases of 1974).

I don't think anyone is suggesting the Wilson/Callaghan government was popular, simply that the picture of an electorate fed up with strikes and union bully boys, and what have you, and yearning for a bit of neo-liberalism, is false.

Submitted by AWL on Fri, 04/19/2013 - 16:33

What Clive said. My point is that people's ideas are complex. Lots of people were unhappy with the level of strikes, but in addition to the fact that lots of people weren't, even those who were thought other (partly contradictory) things too.

I'm saying the British labour movement has risen and fallen repeatedly over a long period. Eg it rose almost to the height of revolution in the late 1840s, with Chartism, and then fell back a lot in the 1850s (including most trade unions pretty much disappearing). And you could tell that without officially collected TU membership figures.

As for the trend reversing, I'm not saying it has been. I'm saying, why do you think it's permanent when previous retreats haven't been?


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Tories test water on strike bans

Submitted by Matthew on 21 March, 2013 - 11:34

On 18 March, Parliament began debating a new bill which could remove the right to strike for some civil servants.

The Crime and Courts Bill would prevent staff employed by the National Crime Agency (NCA) from striking. The ban would affect 3,500 members of the civil service union PCS.

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Mass arrests of trade unionists in Turkey

Submitted by AWL on 28 February, 2013 - 12:09

On 19 February, more than 100 trade unionists were arrested in co-ordinated raids by the authorities in 28 provinces across Turkey. The workers are members of KESK, a federation of public sector unions, and include many members of teachers' union Egitim Sen.

The arrests come in the aftermath of the suicide bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara on 1 February, carried out by a self-styled "leftist" terrorist group. This move is a transparent attempt by the Turkish government to link legitimate, democratic trade unions with this act of terrorism.

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How workers' action freed the Pentonville Five

Submitted by AWL on 11 January, 2013 - 12:13

It is July 1972. With the union leaders safely in talks with [Tory Prime Minister] Heath and knuckling under to his Industrial Relations Act (IRA), the Tories now went for the real union power on the docks: the rank and file.

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