Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps about the inspiring action of dockers who’ve blocked Russian oil and gas coming into the UK.
“There is a real risk under existing laws that for taking a brave moral stand, trade unionists could risk litigation or other action for refusing to handle Russian cargo.
“I urge you to guarantee their protection, with legal changes if necessary, and act to ensure they do not pay the price for standing up for what is right.”
The reason that there is legal jeopardy is that for workers’ action to be protected, it must have trade union endorsement. And under the relevant “existing laws”, the Thatcherite anti-union laws, it is illegal for unions to endorse:
a) industrial action without a postal ballot (1984 Trade Union Act); and
b) industrial action for anything but narrowly-defined industrial issues (1982 Employment Act).
The tenor of Haigh’s comments is broadly welcome – but it’s not at all clear what she’s advocating.
The only consistent way to deal with this problem, also necessary for the interests of the working class and labour movement generally, is to repeal all the anti-union laws (and replace them with a strong legal right to strike), so that workers can take action when, how and for whatever reasons we see fit.