UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Why should a General Strike be unlawful in Britain?‏

“No-one is talking about a general strike – that would be illegal. We hope not....we’re not persuaded that changes are needed, because while you can have a vote for a strike with relatively small numbers taking part, that doesn’t mean that they’ll all come out on strike” said Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude when explaining to the Sunday Times why the Government would not be introducing new anti strike laws in the short term - as demanded by employers organisations such as the CBI.

During 2010 general strikes took place in numerous European Union member states including in France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. It is scandalous that unions should be prohibited by law from seeking the support of members to withdraw labour in protest against Government policies on the economy, post office privatisation, attacks on public services and the welfare state etc etc.

Without question Britain has the most restrictive trade union legislation in Europe but is far from unique in big business friendly European Union in outlawing political strikes - they are illegal in but 5 EU member states. However, 20 EU member states permit solidarity action - which is outlawed in Britain. These were some of the findings in a comparative study of the right to strike in 6 EU member states published in 2009 by the Institute of Employment Rights: http://www.ier.org.uk/node/344

The constraints of the anti union laws will be severely felt in the years ahead and it is no wonder that the United Campaign to repeal the anti trade union laws describes the failure of the modest reforms proposed in the Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill as a parliamentary outrage -following "dirty parliamentary tactics employed by the Tories and a lack of support from Labour MP's":