By a Free Our Unions supporter
The disgraceful sacking of 800 P&O ferries workers, and the subsequent union campaign to reverse it, show the abject inadequacy and weakness of existing employment legislation.
P&O took their action in the full knowledge that it broke employment law. In the face of recent government threats to legislate to force them to reinstate the workers, they have refused to back down. And while bosses have flagrantly broken the law, so far without direct consequence, workers attempting to resist the injustice remain constrained by “the most restrictive union laws in the western world.”
Solidarity action by dock workers in Holland delayed the launching of a P&O vessel. Dockers elsewhere have said they will take similar action. But any workers looking to take this kind of action in the UK will have to do so in defiance of this country’s anti-union legislation, which has, since 1991, outlawed workers taking action in solidarity with other workers.
If workers do bravely defy those laws, the whole labour movement must rally round them. Free Our Unions has campaigned for the Labour Party to fight for the policy passed by successive party conferences, for the repeal of all anti-union and anti-strike laws. When Labour leaders mention the issue, rare enough in itself, they usually focus only on repealing the most recent set of laws, the Trade Union Act of 2016 which imposed ballot turnout thresholds. But in the wake of the P&O sackings, the injustice of the older anti-union laws is harder to ignore.
East Hull’s Labour MP Karl Turner, by no means on the left of the party, has said the last Labour government “should have overturned every anti-trade union law.”:
Left-wing Labour MP Richard Burgon has also used the moment to call for the abolition of anti-union laws and the right to take solidarity action:
RMT, one of the two trade unions representing P&O workers, is a supporter of Free Our Unions, as well as other groups that campaign on the issue, including the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and the Institute for Employment Rights. With Tory plans for new anti-strike laws set to target transport workers, now is surely the time to act on union policy, shared by other unions such as Unite, to call a national demonstration against the anti-union laws.