Once again the scheduled BA cabin crew strike has been ruled out as illegal. The story is reported by the BBC here. The ruling of this strike as illegal comes after the scheduled strike at Christmas time had previously been ruled out by the High Court as illegal and since then another strike this time of RMT members had also be ruled out by the high court once again on a technical basis.
This all comes out even with Britain having already got the most restrictive trade union legislation in western Europe. The high court has ruled the strike out on this occasion as Unite had failed to inform every member of the result of the ballot. This of course seems to be an absurd notion for several reasons. There was no mention of any problem with the election process or with any member of the union being unable to vote or any problem with the result. The only problem is that not every member had been informed of the result! Unite had stated that due to the international nature of the industry they did the best they could have done, posting results on key notice boards, on the union website and via the use of e-mails and text messages. The only conclusion that any sane person can come to is that this has been a blatant attack on the democratic right to strike.
So we have the situation where three scheduled strikes have gone through a democratic procedure and voted for strike action only to be ruled illegal by a completely unelected High Court judge! A Unite official said it was "an affront to democracy in this country". And Steve Turner, Unite’s national officer said that "decent citizens had voted in an open ballot which had then been ruled out by the judiciary”. And went on to say “the union would hope to be in the Court of Appeal as early as possible, possibly on Tuesday”
But all this does beg the question should a legal challenge be the only route? It is not simply a case of High Court judges acting out of turn but the problem is systematic and the Court of Appeal is part of the same system. It is clear that this is a class war at this stage initiated by the ruling class against the organised working class and there is no indication that the Court of Appeal will be any different.
The situation trade unionists now face on top of the already restrictive laws on the right to strike are several recent precedents set in law now which further curtail or could even be said to make strike action virtually impossible, furthermore this attack comes in the most blatant and class biased of ways and therefore the time to defy the anti-trade union laws and these recent court rulings and launch wildcat strike action is now.
It is only by the trade unions defying these laws with the help and support of the rest of the labour movement that we can show these laws to be worth less than the paper they are written on and enter the coming struggles for jobs and public services in a position of strength. If the anti-trade union laws are not defied then it seems clear that this will continue to happen and possibly even worsen under a tory government and will mean that at the most critical time the entire trade union movement could remain stagnant and paralysed.
For further updates on the BA cabin crew strikes check out the AirStrike blog.