Trades unions under siege

We have seen the anti-trade union laws in action yet again. Not for the first time, it is the National Union of Mineworkers which is in the firing line. At the end of last year, NUM members voted by a narrow majority of 54% to take a series of 24-hour selective strikes unless the employers agreed to the introduction of a conciliation scheme and to negotiate a substantial increase in basic wages for the pay years 1996 and 1997.

But on New Year’s Eve, the RJB Mining Group and its subsidiary companies secured an injunction preventing members of the NUM from taking strike action as from January 6. In a private hearing granted over the holiday period, RJB Mining, a company which owns over 80 per cent of the industry, claimed there had been ‘technical breaches’ in the balloting procedure - even though the procedures used by the NUM were identical to those used in February 1996. These procedures were not challenged at the time by any mining company.

This is all rather ironic if you consider that in the Miners’ Great Strike of 1984/85 the NUM was hounded into sequestration for allegedly not holding an individual ballot of members. Now in 1997 the NUM is being hounded by the courts because they did hold an individual postal ballot.

All of this adds up to a vicious assault on the NUM, and on democratic rights in general. These unedifying shenanigans amply prove that the courts, at the end of the day, are the playthings of the bosses, who will keep going back and back to their bewigged chums on the benches until they get the ‘right’ result.

Inevitably, the NUM is not the only union to experience the full might of the Tories’ - and, soon, New Labour’s - anti-trade union laws. The railworkers’ RMT union has experienced similar legal action and had to re-ballot its members, as have the postal workers union and many other trade unions, who have all been victims of the anti-trade union legislation.

Whether we have a Major or Blair government, the attacks on unions will continue and escalate in strength until the working class takes up the fight against capitalist law in general.

Eddie Ford