The investigation by Bruce Carr QC into trade unions has begun. Claiming to address Unite’s so-called “leverage tactics” during the 2013 Grangemouth fiasco – when some Unite staff imported US-style tactics with personal and confrontational actions such as camping on the company director’s lawn – Carr is expected to recommend making some industrial action or tactics illegal. Surprise, surprise.
There is a whole industry of reviews and investigations into the trade unions dating back to Tudor times or the Combination Acts of 1795 or the Tolpuddle Martyrs in 1834 or the alleged Sheffield Outrages of 1866-67. Pick any decade within the past 500 years, and there is bound to have been some legal review of trade unions.
This is at least the fourth review commissioned by the current government into trade unions since 2010. Its remit is to look at “extreme tactics”, “leverage tactics”, “inappropriate or intimidatory” actions in trade disputes. Recent reviews have resulted in changes to employment law, employment rights at work, trade union facilities etc to the detriment of workers.
The goal behind the Carr investigation is not to stop the silliness of a handful of Unite staff but to outlaw any strike action held to be against the public interest. Boris Johnson’s clamour to ban strikes on London’s tube system springs to mind.
The Carr report is due in May, with expected legislation to be part of the Tories’ election manifesto for 2015. Expect also Boris Johnson to be part of the team riding that old war horse of union bashing whenever an election is coming. Capitalism – whether represented by Tory or Labour – never stops waging class war. ■