From British daily The Morning Star:
Centenary of struggle
(Wednesday 20 December 2006)
A CENTURY ago, Britain’s trade unions took a major step forward as a result of Parliament’s passage of the Trade Disputes Act.
The Act was not a surprise windfall from the hands of a Parliament that was still not fully democratic, being elected on a restrictive franchise.
It was the result of a long and pains-taking campaign by the trade unions to demand the right to take industrial action as a last resort without the threat of imprisonment or of sequestration of union funds.
Until the Act, employers had been able to turn confidently to the courts where judges effectively made law by ruling against trade unions and hamstringing them in their efforts to win justice for working people.
The Act effectively made the right to strike legal and it allowed trade unionists to take action in solidarity with other workers, just as employers have always been able to mobilise all available resources to hold the line against working-class endeavour.
For nearly three decades, Britain’s workers have had fewer rights at work than their forebears during the Edwardian era.
The Tories brought in a whole raft of anti-union legislation during their 18 years of office from 1979 onward and new Labour has done little to loosen the shackles since 1997, despite pledges to do so during Labour’s opposition years.
Indeed, Tony Blair has gone so far as to boast that, even with the minor reforms brought in by his government, Britain still has the most restrictive anti-union laws in the industrialised world.