Socialist Worker

New Labour enforces its anti-union laws on prison officers

Issue No. 2089

New Labour has again turned to the courts to defend its public sector pay curbs.

On Monday an injunction stopping prison officers from taking industrial action was extended by a high court judge.

The order against the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) was brought by justice minister Jack Straw and will now run until 8 May.

The injunction was imposed by the high court in August last year after 20,000 prison officers in England and Wales took illegal unofficial action against Gordon Brown’s public sector wage freeze.

A pay review body last year recommended a rise of 2.5 percent for prison officers. The government decided that it should be staged – with an initial 1.5 percent rise followed by another 1 percent six months later.

Justice denied

Overall, this kept the prison officers’ pay “rise” under Brown’s 2 percent public sector pay limit.

According to Brian Caton, the general secretary of the POA, “Once again justice has been denied to the POA.

“The decision comes as no surprise. We are still in dispute with the government. We want the same trade union rights as other workers.”

The Prison Officers Association was banned from striking by a court ruling in early 1993 that was written into law by the Tories in the 1994 Criminal Justice Act.

Labour promised to repeal the ban.

It did this in 2001 – but also pushed through a voluntary no-strike agreement with the POA.

Prison officers should have the right to strike. Straw says prison officers can’t strike because of their “vital role”.

If the government can ban prison officers from striking, will firefighters or transport workers be next?

Every trade unionist should oppose the use of anti-union laws and welcome any assault on Brown’s pay freeze.

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Tue 19 Feb 2008, 18:45 GMT
Issue No. 2089
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