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Anti-union laws: A history of injunctions

This article is over 11 years, 8 months old
This week’s injunction against BA cabin crew is the latest in a string of judgements against workers.
Issue 2202

This week’s injunction against BA cabin crew is the latest in a string of judgements against workers.

Prior to the rulings against workers at BA and Johnston Press (see » Journalists angry as bosses turn to courts) there have been a series of major injunctions against unions over the past year. Each ruling strengthens the anti-union laws and makes it harder for workers to take legal strike action.

Last month, a judge granted an injunction against the RMT union to stop signal workers striking at Network Rail.

They had planned to strike for four days along with TSSA union members to save jobs.

The company took the RMT to court on the basis that the union did not know the exact location and details of every signal box it had members at.

It wasn’t disputing the validity of the vote for strikes. Yet the company won.

In February Milford Haven Port Authority won an injunction against Unite. Workers had voted for two days of strikes in defence of their pensions.

Again the vote for strike action was never in question. The firm won on a technical point about the way in which the union had informed it of the ballot result.

The first ballot of BA cabin crew at Christmas saw over 92 percent voting to strike on an 80 percent turnout.


A judge ruled it illegal after accepting BA’s argument that Unite had balloted some members who were taking voluntary redundancy.

No one argued that this would have altered the result, which would still have been massively in favour of strikes.

In October, RMT members at EDF, who supply power to London Underground, voted for strikes over pay.

The union supplied full details of the workers being balloted to EDF – but the company said that because it used different terms for the workers, the union’s categories were wrong.

It won an injunction to stop the strikes.

In July bus workers at Metrobus in London called a strike in their campaign to standardise terms for bus workers across different London bus companies.

Metrobus took Unite to court and won an injunction on two grounds.

It claimed the union had taken too long to tell the employer the ballot result (20 hours) and secondly that it had not explained where the details of the numbers of workers and their job descriptions had come from.

Bosses are making full use of the anti-union laws to ram through attacks and ride roughshod over workers’ democratic decisions.

Every trade unionist needs to fight to repeal the laws – but we also need to defy them and take unofficial action to win.

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