Socialist Worker

Tories plan new attack on trade unionists

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2380

Tory prime minister David Cameron announced an inquiry into trade unions last week that could lead to even harsher anti-union laws.

Top lawyer Bruce Carr QC will head up the inquiry. It will consider the need for new laws against “harassment” and “intimidation”.

Extreme and intimidatory tactics certainly have been used recently.

Grangemouth billionaire boss Jim Ratcliffe closed down the plant—risking permanent damage—and sacked hundreds of workers. 

He wanted to blackmail their union, Unite, into accepting deep cuts. Unfortunately it worked. 

But politicians aren’t talking about Ratcliffe holding his workers to ransom. 

They are more concerned by a small protest organised by Unite at the home of a director.

Cameron says this calls into question Unite’s “leverage” campaigns that target the offices, partners, supporters and suppliers of a firm. 

Though, as Unite pointed out, it didn’t even organise a leverage campaign around Grangemouth.

Business secretary Vince Cable said there are “rogue employers” as well as “rogue unions”. 

He put workers’ protests on the same level as the illegal blacklisting of thousands of construction workers.

Blacklisting

Blacklisted electrician Stewart Hume won his job back partly thanks to leverage protests, after being victimised at Grangemouth last year.

“I am so angry that the Tories have called this inquiry primarily into Unite’s leverage tactics based on a grainy photo of a group of people standing beside an inflatable rat, and the words of the boss and his neighbours,” he said.

“This review is just another tactic to sweep the blacklist scandal under the carpet.”

Construction workers stopped eight giant firms from slashing their pay by 35 percent in 2011-12 after leverage protests with official and unofficial industrial action.

One protest targeted guests attending a white tie bosses’ award ceremony.

“Not content with having the most restrictive anti-trade union laws in Western Europe, the Tories now want to attack our fundamental right to protest,” said London construction electrician Ian Bradley.

“Leverage protests are no substitute for industrial action—but they show the bosses that their actions have consequences.” 

Unite has dismissed the review as a Tory election stunt, and rightly called on trade unionists not to give it any legitimacy by taking part.

But it was the Labour Party attacks on Unite that opened the door to the victimisation of convenor Stevie Deans that began the dispute at Grangemouth.

These gave the Tories confidence to go on the offensive.

“We must resist all forms of regulation that come from this review” said Stewart. 

“And if laws need to be broken to get ourselves heard then that is what the rank and file trade union movement must do.”


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Tue 19 Nov 2013, 17:21 GMT
Issue No. 2380
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