Socialist Worker

We must resist bosses’ laws

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2155

Every trade unionist who attempts to stand up for their rights comes up against the threat of the law.

The disputes in the tube and the post have both seen the bosses attempt to scupper strikes with the anti-union laws.

The strength of the votes for action has caused the lawyers to back off for now, which is an important lesson for all in the movement.

The bosses’ threats were over allegedly improper implementation of strike ballot procedures.

This has been used to derail a number of important strikes in the past.

Last year a London-wide bus strike was halted after one such injunction and a series of legal threats.

A national post strike was called off a year earlier.

The anti-union laws were brought in by the Tories under Margaret Thatcher and maintained and defended by the Labour government.


They were designed to stifle unions’ ability to resist, and to give union leaders a way to persuade their members not to strike.

One clause of the law says that unions have to give the employers a list of workers who are going on strike and their workplaces. Such requirements are a magnet for employers who want to use technicalities to halt strikes.

Unless the anti-union laws are challenged, no union could survive the level of detailed scrutiny now being imposed on ballots.

The unions should challenge these laws in court. And no strike should be cancelled because of an injunction or the threat of legal action.

This is an issue for the whole trade union movement. The right to strike is the most fundamental and basic right that workers have – and we have to defend it.

The best way to beat the law is for a union to say that it is not going to back down, and that it will strike regardless. A key lesson for the movement is not to be intimidated by the anti-union laws.

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Tue 9 Jun 2009, 18:52 BST
Issue No. 2155
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