Tories talk of strike ban

Submitted by AWL on 4 November, 2009 - 2:16 Author: Sacha Ismail

If they win the election, the Tories want to privatise the whole of Royal Mail. They also want to change the law to ban many of even those strikes still legal under the current anti-union laws.

According to the Guardian (30 October): “The Tories are looking at introducing laws setting new minimum turnout thresholds for strike ballots on the basis that they can only be lawful disputes if a majority of those being called out on strike have voted for it in a ballot”.

The Tories’ exact plans are unclear. When we phoned Tory Central Office, they could not tell us. But the Guardian report is one of several straws in the Tory wind.

The Evening Standard (22 October) has reported the Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, as likely to press an incoming Tory government for “a ban on any strike which fails to get a required minimum turnout in a ballot of union members”. The Daily Mail (11 June) has written: “John Major's Government had plans to outlaw strikes in essential services such as the Fire Brigade but lost office before they had a chance to implement them. David Cameron should revive those plans and make clear that transport will be included”.

The Lib-Dems, who may be coalition partners for a Tory government, already have policy to ban strikes in “essential services”.

The CWU had a big majority for strike action: a 76 percent yes vote on a 67 percent turn out. That is 50.9% of the members called out. But a 70% majority on a 70% turnout — a clear strike mandate — would be only 49%, and so no lawful basis for a strike on the basis of the Tory scheme reported by the Guardian.

Why should the law assume that all of those who do not vote are against a strike? And why, especially, when the anti-union laws enforce postal ballots, rather than workplace ballots, which would have a higher turn out?

If the Tories win the next election, they will do it with the votes of probably 20-25 percent of the electorate (40-45 percent on a 50-60 percent turn out). Will they say they have no democratic mandate?

In fact the right to strike is, or should be, a fundamental democratic right for every worker and every group of workers.


Submitted by AWL on Fri, 06/11/2009 - 20:02

In fact - leaving aside the Conservative press office's confusion - the Tory plans are unclear in another respect. A number of articles have implied that they want to insist on a majority not just of union members, but of workers in a given industry. This would obviously be an even more serious attack.

In Royal Mail, for instance, there are 120,000 CWU members, but also 20,000 workers not in the union. On that basis, the 50.9 percent for strike action (76 percent on a 67 turn out) is actually a minority. On a 67 percent turn out, the CWU would have needed 87 to vote yes in order to clear this hurdle!

Given the the post is much better organised than most industries (86 percent unionised, as against 28 percent of all workers), such a law would obviously make most strikes still able to take place under the current anti-union laws illegal - certainly most large, let alone national, strikes.

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