Friday, 5 June 2015

Railroaded By Unions

Under UK Employment legislation you can’t sue a trade union if they go out on strike .... a hangover from the terrible 1970's. 

Strikes Can Soon Get Of Hand

That is of course if they follow the correct procedures when calling the strike, in which case they apparently enjoy 'statutory immunity' from any legal action brought against them, either by the employers, or the public. So no matter that you are not the strikers 'official' target (with some unions, blackmailing the general public is a happy bonus when they strike), nor what level of damage the strike does to you personally, you can't sue them. In other words, your holiday can be wiped out by a rail strike, or you could lose your job, or your business because of strike actions, and yet you have no recourse to law for recompense.

In an age in which the British army can be sued by Iraqi terrorists for actions while fighting them, its strange that for damages caused by a British union striking, you are simply classed as 'collateral damage', in some dispute to which you have no interest. So to say that this is anachronistic is to put it rather mildly.

So despite the fact that you hold no loyalty, membership or relationship of any kind with the employers, nor similarly towards the union that's on strike, theres no recourse to the law for recompense. In any other part of modern 21st century life, if someone or somebody performs and action which causes you damage or inconvenience, or which affects your business or livelihood, you have a firm right to sue them for damages.

So why oh why should trade unions be immune from this sort of risk for their actions? When for example a rail strike is held, the number of cars on the roads increases, and also so do the number of accidents and presumably the death toll. All as a consequence of a strike, and none of this can be legally laid at the door of the strike, even if it can be proved to be attributed to it.  

We, you and I, are not part of their dispute, so why should they have the right to affect us?

If the government truly want to reform industrial relations, then maybe it is now time that trade union legislation be amended to allow all those who suffer collateral damages, in a dispute to which they have no part, to sue and recover damages from those who do us harm .....

Some Industrial Action Brings Only Unemployment .....

.... I don't mean removing the right to strike for anyone, and in any case most union strikes harm no one but the employer and strikers. I mean curtailing the rights of certain unique unions that still have the power to hold the whole country to ransom, only because the legislation prevents any come back for the collateral victims their actions, and that needs to be addressed in some way.

For those unions that means joining the 21st century .... we can't go back to the days of the 'Winter of Discontent'.


  1. I'm always bemused by the reporting of strikes which hardly ever mention the employers who are as much, if not more to blame than the unions for the strike. Workers do not want to strike but are often left with no alternative when they cannot come to an agreement with the employer. One could just as well have a case against an employer who fails to reach an agreement with a union, forcing them to take strike action. In the worst case, if their really isn't the money available for more wages and a strike ensues, the employer has failed to convince the workers of their position, which as managers is their fault.

    1. I seem to recall British Leyland being brought down by Red Robbo and his union pals. Hardly the employers fault then.

    2. If a company is well run with good commercial decisions, workers have no reason to lock horns with the management. British Leyland was firstly a victim old production techniques which were out performed by the new Japanese factories which spelt the end for not only British Leyland but British Shipbuilders and many other British manufacturers. Britain was a victim of it's own success in that it had established heavy industries which were difficult to change and stood little chance of competing with the brand the new Japanese factories which carried no baggage and learned from the mistakes of the old order.

      At the end of the day, the buck stops at the top, not with the 100 or so production-line workers who have no power to make decisions about production techniques or investment plans. The management sets up the business, installs the machinery and employs the workforce; to blame the workforce for a company's failure is the same as blaming the machinery which keeps breaking down or blaming the roof for leaking and spoiling the stock. In short it's a bad workman who blames his tools.

      I'm not saying that the unions are totally blameless in this or other examples but there needs to be more balance in the reporting of industrial disputes where unions are always making unreasonable demands and management is always making generous offers.

  2. All I know is that the long planned trip I had this weekend, would have been wiped out if the rail unions had struck. They were using this threat to me, a man with no ability to influence their rather well paid (these days) or conditions to get a better pay rise than I will manage this year. No matter what the state of British industrial relations or British management skills from the 1970's onwards, this seems very wrong to me.

    As for British Leyland et al, I have seen it argued that it was the unions resistance to bringing in new working practices and new plant both of which would have improved productivity and possibly remove the 'Spanish practices' of demarcation disputes ... and possibly reduced over staffing, that was the reason the British companies failed to survive. Its noticeable that the US, whose plants were as old as ours, managed to survive, possibly because their labour practises weren't as intransigent or rigid.

    Two sides to every argument ....

    1. Yes, it is very wrong, but let's not absolve the management's responsibility to work with the unions to avoid industrial action.

      A lazy and intransigent workforce may have had a large part to play in BL's demise - there are a lot of factors; the British mass car manufacturing industry went through many changes to try and save it but it nevertheless ended in 2005, as far as I know not because of unions.

    2. I think that you will find that Leyland died well before 2005 mate. In 1986 it was renamed as the Rover Group to try and lose the image it had developed. It was finally sold around as a broken company under the name MG Rover Group, which went into administration in 2005. The marque names were sold to India and China, or were like Jaguar broken out and sold to a US company. Basically many of the badges exist but under the ownership of foreign companies and are even now made abroad.

      I guess who you blame for all this, depends on your political point of view. I recall nothing but Derek Robinson aka "Red Robbo" from the British Leyland days of the 1970's. All that was wrong with Britain in the 70's.


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