By Tommy Sheridan
The class nature of British society was exposed for all to see in glorious technicolour at the Royal High Courts in London today. In a matter of minutes a single unelected judge, Lord Swift, granted an injunction sought by the Royal Mail Group (RMG) to nullify a massive industrial strike action ballot conducted by the postal service union, the Communication Workers Union (CWU). Over 110,000 CWU members were consulted in the ballot. The highest turnout ever recorded in an industrial action ballot was witnessed. An amazing 75.9% of the workers returned their ballot papers and incredibly over 97% voted to strike in support of their union leadership’s recommendation. Yet one single man, representing the British Establishment, overturned the democratically expressed wishes of over 80,000 workers. No wonder the elected CWU leader, Dave Ward, called the decision “outrageous”. The ruling class don’t like to talk about the class war. They are too busy practicing it. The judge represented the boss class as usual.
OBSCENE SALARY FOR THE BOSS – BROKEN PROMISES FOR THE POSTIES
After several months of negotiations between the union and Royal Mail management it became clear that several promises in relation to pensions, job security and other important employment conditions were being reneged on by a management team more intent on retaining and expanding their grotesque pay and bonus packages than looking after the hard grafting posties who do the work and make the profits for the RMG. The new boss of RMG, Rico Back, was paid an obscene £5.8 million compensation package to move from a subsidiary company of RMG to become their new boss. The Financial Times reported his new salary would be substantial:
“Mr Back will receive a base salary of £640,000 as Royal Mail group chief executive and a cash pension allowance of 17.5 per cent of base salary, in addition to a potential annual bonus of 200 per cent of salary” https://www.ft.com/content/43592ebc-5949-11e8-b8b2-d6ceb45fa9d0.
RMG were able to offer a massive salary, pension deal and bonus scheme to the new incoming Chief Executive but nothing but smoke and mirrors commitments for their ordinary workforce. The union felt utterly betrayed by management’s broken promises and reluctantly concluded the only way they could persuade the bosses to respond to their member’s job and pension concerns was to ballot for industrial action.
TRADE UNIONS FACE THATCHER STYLE ANTI-TRADE UNION LAWS
Therein lays the difference between trade unions and employers and employer organisations. Trade unions are open and democratic organisations. Disgracefully since the Thatcher years of union bashing and economic vandalism which decimated industry across the UK trade unions have found themselves severely restricted in their ability to fight against job losses and bad bullying bosses by anti-trade union laws designed to effectively outlaw strikes. It is an indictment of Thatcher that her industrial relations Acts left the UK the most restricted of the advanced nations in Europe in relation to trade union rights and freedoms. Thatcher hated trade unions because they organise working class people and give them collective power. She wanted them stripped of their ability to organise so ordinary workers were left isolated and powerless.
Thatcher was a hard-line Tory who represented the ruling class who supported her. The greatest compliment former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) leader Arthur Scargill paid her was to suggest the working class need leaders who will represent them with the same commitment and passion that Thatcher displayed in support of the ruling elites during her 1979-1991 terms in office.
Thatcher took on the health trade unions, the steelworkers, the printers and then the NUM during her tenure. Despite having the panoply of the state on her side, including the police, the courts, the media, the social security system and weak Labour leaders, the miners came agonisingly close to defeating her under Scargill’s leadership. The March 1984 to March 1985 strike she precipitated and planned for was accurately described as ‘a civil war without bullets’ but sadly she won and every coal mine across the UK was eventually closed and the NUM destroyed.
The anti-trade union laws she used against the miners were beefed up by successive Tory governments and the latest set of measures which introduced ridiculously difficult thresholds for successful strike ballots was enacted in 2016. How shameful it was that the Blair/Brown governments of 1997-2010 lifted not a finger to repeal anti-trade union laws that have been condemned by human rights organisations and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as severe infringements on the freedoms of trade unions.
Thankfully Corbyn’s Labour party has committed itself to repealing those anti-trade union laws. That’s another reason why the rich bosses of Britain despise him and his policies. The thought of ordinary workers becoming empowered in the fight for better employment conditions scares them in their comfortable boardrooms as they devise more schemes to further enhance their already bloated salaries and pensions.
ANGRY TRADE UNION LEADER RAGES AGAINST THE COURT DECISION
The words of CWU leader, Dave Ward, deserve to be publicised widely and paid heed by ordinary workers across the UK. This judgement should alert every worker to the rigged class nature of the courts and legal system as it exists first and foremost to defend the status quo, the British elites, the rich and the powerful:
“We balloted over 110,000 members and they voted by over 97% in favour of strike action in a massive 76% turnout.
“Not one single person out of 110,000 who were balloted complained to Royal Mail that their right to vote was interfered with.
“Not one single person out of 110,000 who were balloted complained to the independent scrutineers that their right to vote was interfered with.”
“This injunction is not only a massive injustice to our members, it’s also an injustice to every worker in the country.
“We all need to wake up and recognise that this Tory government has deliberately stacked the rules against workers in favour of the constituency they were born to serve – which is big business and the establishment” https://news.sky.com/story/royal-mail-secures-injunction-to-block-christmas-strikes-11860428.
If this decision took place in Cuba, Venezuela, Russia or any other country considered undemocratic by the Western billionaire media it would be condemned with relish as evidence of restricted freedom. Yet it took place in London and got hardly a comment on the broadcast media, Channel 4 accorded it less than 10 seconds.
ELECTORAL REFORM SERVICES GAVE BALLOT THE THUMBS UP
This strike ballot was held between September 24th and October 15th. The Electoral Reform Services who conducted the ballot confirmed it was run in full accordance of the law, and after over seven weeks since the ballot commenced, not one single person has complained to the certification officer who is appointed by the Government to regulate trade unions. Today’s decision is truly outrageous and disgraceful. The CWU intend to appeal the decision in the courtroom but inevitably they and all organised workers will only get justice through action and organisation outside the rigged bosses’ courts. The CWU have had their freedom to organise and defend their members’ rights and conditions unfairly curtailed today but the same laws will be used against other unions who dare fight their bosses tomorrow. United, bold and widespread solidarity action across all trade unions is necessary to force the scrapping of the anti-union laws. I’m on the side of the posties and the trade union movement in this class war.