At the TUC conference in September, congress passed a motion calling for the partial restoration of the right of secondary action, restricted to “closely-related” groups of workers, provided that all the legal niceties such as pre-strike ballots had been complied with. The T&GWU General Secretary Tony Woodley promised that he did not want “a return to the 1970s”.
This motion is cowardly, unnecessarily restrictive, overly cautious, and plays right into the hands of the bosses.
Workplace ballots are a parody of democracy. Bosses are past masters at manipulating opinions among the workforce; they have access to psychologists and other experts who are highly skilled at manipulating the minds of ordinary people, and can produce any result they want to order. Ballots leave workers open to highly sophisticated strategies designed to see off strikes.
Also, strike ballots are slow, complicated, expensive and time-consuming; they can eat up a union’s narrow financial resources and hamstring them, leaving them paralysed while the bosses are free to organise counter-measures that can leave strikers flat-footed and any strike action irrelevant.
In any case, why should only workers have to hold ballots? Why shouldn’t bosses have to ballot the workers before taking any action contrary to workers’ interests, like cutbacks, layoffs, ‘speed-ups’ or productivity deals (ie, making workers work harder for less money)? Any ‘no’ vote by the workers should be legally binding against the bosses, backed up by the full panoply of fines, sequestrations and imprisonment.
And another thing: who are these ‘workers’ who, the bosses claim, ‘don’t want’ to go on strike, but are supposedly ‘intimidated’ by ‘militants’? If they exist, they are nothing but a bunch of cowards and traitors; creeping, crawling, snivelling, cap-touching, forelock-tugging, bootlicking, backside-kissing sycophants who would rather suck up to the boss than stand up to him! I never once saw any of these handing back the pay rises we got for them (I did read about one in the papers, back in the 70s, but he only did so after the Daily Express paid him a large sum). They were too chickenshit to stand on a picket line but they still took the money! By restricting solidarity action to “closely related” workers, we are giving an open door to bosses to claim that sympathy strikers are ‘totally unrelated’, even if, like the baggage handlers at Heathrow, they work in the same place as the original strikers. If this restriction had been in place, we would never have had Saltley Gates or Grunwick.
THERE MUST BE NO LIMITS ON SOLIDARITY. To hear the likes of Woodley promising “No return to the 70s” is a disgrace. Workers’ solidarity is the highest and noblest response that people are capable of, and the 70s saw its finest expression. To denigrate those times is the action of a coward.
Keith J Ackermann