‘NO RIGHT TO STRIKE IN BRITAIN!’ – Brendan Barber of the TUC

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TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said yesterday that he was ‘desperately worried’ about the High Court decision to make the cabin crew strike at British Airways illegal.

Barber said ‘fundamental freedoms’ were being eroded.

Meanwhile, the PCS civil service union said the ban was the talk of delegates as they assembled for their annual conference and said trade unionists across Britain would be ‘furious’ with the judgement.

TUC leader Barber said: ‘This is a desperately worrying judgement.

‘A strike that clearly has majority support has been turned over on a tiny technicality.

‘This – and other recent decisions – begin to make it look as if there is no effective right to strike in today’s Britain.

‘Just as you do not have to agree with what people say to defend their freedom of speech, the right to take peaceful industrial action goes far wider than any particular dispute and is a hallmark of a free society.

‘All fair-minded people should see that fundamental freedoms are now being eroded.’

A TUC spokesman told News Line it was ‘too early to say’ if a special meeting of the TUC General Council will be called to discuss the way forwards for the trade union movement, in the light of the strike ban.

‘There’s an appeal today,’ said the TUC spokesman, referring to attempts by lawyers for the cabin crew’s union Unite to get leave to appeal against Monday’s High Court judgement.

Unite is the biggest trade union in the TUC with over two million members.

‘We’re waiting to see what the outcome of the appeal is and we’ll take our next steps from there. That is what we’re focused on now,’ he said.

‘We’re horrified by the court’s judgement,’ a spokesman for the PCS told News Line.

‘We think it’s a disgrace that a court can rule against a democratically decided ballot for industrial action on the basis of a very minor legal technicality relating to the notification of just 11 spoilt papers.

‘I think the trade unions will have to look very carefully at what action they can take if this becomes a trend of employers running to the courts to try to smash trade union democracy.’

Asked if the TUC General Council should now meet in special session to decide on the trade union movement’s response, the PCS spokesman said: ‘I don’t think that’s something we’ve had a chance to discuss in the union.’

But he added: ‘It’s our annual conference this week in Brighton and the court action against Unite has already been discussed by our delegates over the last two days.

‘Our delegates have been meeting at group and sector conferences and today this has been an issue on everyone’s minds and has already been discussed among delegates and I expect it will be throughout the rest of the week.

‘Union members will be absolutely furious. They won’t take this lying down.

‘It goes without saying we defend the right to strike, it’s a fundamental right.’

A spokesman for Unison, the biggest public service trade union in Britain, with members in the NHS and local councils, said: ‘This just shows that the scales are stacked against working people.’