Socialist Worker

Prison officers walkout tests the anti-union laws

Issue No. 2067

Some 20,000 prison officers in England and Wales took illegal unofficial action on Wednesday of last week against Gordon Brown's public sector wage cuts and the disastrous overcrowding in prisons.

Brown's response was to turn to the anti-union laws and get an injunction against the strikers. However, the strike forced the government to the negotiating table.

Brian Caton, the general secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA) said, 'I believe every officer has human rights, and they include the right to withdraw their labour.'

Prison officers were banned from striking by a court ruling in early 1993. That was written into law by the Tories. New Labour promised to repeal this ban – which it did, only to sign a voluntary no-strike agreement with the POA in 2001.

The strike showed up the government's commitment to Tory anti-union laws – and also how weak these laws are in reality. If prison officers, despite their right wing position in society, can take on the government, why can't the rest of the unions? Coordinated industrial action can beat the courts and the government.

For a full report and analysis of the prison officers' strike, go to » Prison officers' unofficial strike rattles government


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Tue 4 Sep 2007, 18:44 BST
Issue No. 2067
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