Following the example of solidarity strike action in support of the Lyndsey Oil Refinery workers earlier this year, thousands of other workers around the country have walked out in support of the new strikes resulting from the sacking of 647 workers at the site who came out against the redundancy of 51 workers in contravention of a previous agreement to redeploy workers within the site.
See: BBC Report on Strike .
The management’s tactics here are a clear attempt at union busting, and must be defeated. But, more is at stake here. Not only is the action of the workers at Lyndsey illegal under the anti-union laws, because it was taken without an official ballot, but the action of other workers in support is also illegal under those same laws. But, as the similar Gate Gourmet dispute demonstrated without the ability to respond immediately to bosses actions against workers, without the ability of, especially small groups of workers, to obtain the collective support of their comrades in other workplaces, workers are at a huge disadvantage in trying to defeat the attacks on them by rich, powerful bosses. This dispute is a perfect opportunity for workers to finish off Thatcher’s anti-union laws, once and for good.
Back in 1978, after year’s of workers being kept down by the Social Contract stitched up between the Labour Government and the TUC, workers frustration eventually boiled over. Ford workers struck in defiance of the Social Contract, and won a Pay Policy busting rise, that opened the door for other workers to flood through. Many did in the private sector, but Callaghan’s Government decided to use its position by trying to maintain the Pay Policy in relation to Public Sector workers. It led to the Winter of Discontent, and the election of Thatcher.
With Labour already in dire straits, with it looking as though it will have to ditch the Post office privatisation programme or face a huge rebellion by Labour MP’s already shitting themselves over the prospect of having to get a job if they lose their seats, its hard to imagine that Labour would want to repeat that experience by gaoling workers, or trying to impose huge fines on the unions that still largely fund them ahead of an election next year. If workers and the Labour Movement push through the anti-union laws now by direct action in support of the Lyndsey strikers we can consign the anti-union laws to the dustbin of history, whether or not the Government legislates them away. But, we should then still demand on the back of that that those laws are formally removed from the statute book, demand a fight by the union leaders and the Labour left, for at least that minimum commitment to the working class.