By-pass official channels

THE UNIONS came under a further barrage of attacks last week. A law lords’ judgement ruled that employers are entitled to withhold pay rises from workers who refuse to sign personal contracts removing their union-based negotiating rights.

On top of this Royal Mail, gaining confidence after its £100,000 settlement against the Communication Workers Union last month, made a further legal claim against the union arising from its members’ actions in five centres. Total damages amount to £1 million.

TUC chief John Monks, responding to the law lords’ judgement, moaned: “This shows there is a total lack of employee rights in UK law.” What he did not admit was the total failure of trade union bureaucrats to defend their members.

For example the CWU thinks winning ‘public sympathy’ and allying itself with maverick Tory MPs such as Elizabeth Peacock (yes - the one who wants to entertain workers with floggings as they settle down to watch the National Lottery) is the way to defend its members working for Post Office Counters.

The bureaucrats are shackled by the anti-trade union laws and so have become virtually impotent. Not so the workers, as was demonstrated at the beginning of this year. Against attacks on working conditions postal workers throughout the country came out spontaneously on unofficial action.

Having conceded most of their demands, Royal Mail is now seeking revenge from the more lily-livered union leaders, and seeking it where it hurts - in their pockets.

A postal worker from London commented: “They are just using the courts to try and stifle the unions. Since we are virtually the only union to take action recently, they will do everything they can to frighten us off”.

Postal workers have shown the way for the future. If we are to defend even our basic rights and conditions, we will have to bypass the official channels and the law.

These two cases are undoubtedly a setback for the union movement, but we should not let them intimidate us, as they will our so-called leaders. If the courts strangle all possibility of action through official channels, we will have to organise unofficially - and that could unleash a much more powerful force that the bosses have not reckoned with.

Linda Addison