Unite loses to BA in High Court… again

by scotslawstudent

A trade union has one purpose, to back you up if you have a dispute with your employer. That’s literally its job. Some of the trade union Unite’s members have a dispute with their employer, a lot of people are scratching their head about what the complaint is actually about (Ryanair makes BA’s conditions look immensely generous, for example) but they have a dispute nonetheless.

One of the most potent tools that trade unions have always had is the ability to withdraw their labour. Anyone can strike without a trade union – you just don’t work, however it leaves you at extreme risk of being made unemployed because “you didn’t come to work” is often fairly safe grounds for dismissal. The trade union gives you security because, firstly, if everyone strikes at the same time it gives you greater bargaining power but secondly they can’t get everyone and recent labour law statutes mean that they can’t get you for striking. Early trade unionists in Glasgow were routinely beaten to the point of permanent injury or death because strikes could be so damaging to employers, we’ve progressed a lot since then and now you need to take a vote of your members and give the employers fair notice. No employer likes employees who go on wildcat strikes and this is the balance we’ve struck.

Central to this is the trade union which becomes immensely powerful because it is the gatekeeper to the ability to strike. It’s basically what a trade union does – you pay your sub to your union so that, if you have an employment problem, they’ll back you up with bigger guns than you can muster alone.

Unite’s BA members want a strike, they absolutely, definitely do but Unite has failed to arrange it properly twice. I thought that Unite would be careful with the i’s that need dotted and the t’s that need crossed because it’s a high profile dispute. I thought that when BA managed to interdict the strike that their lawyer was a genius who had absolutely earned his fee but said, and these are the exact words I used at the time:

They’ll never manage to do that again

I thought it was a masterful, albeit desparate, strike by an employer using a sneaky technical point in the hope of staving off the damage that a strike would cause. I naturally assumed that Unite would turn around and immediately call another vote and this time cross every t they could possibly think of. If it was me I would have even considered hiring BA’s lawyer to check I was crossing all the t’s.

Unite have had another injunction granted against them stopping their next series of strikes for voting irregularities. This isn’t cool Unite, your members are relying on you. Yes ballots for industrial action are fiddly, highly technical things but you are an organisation that does ballots for industrial action. Souffle is fiddly to do too but if you want to be an organisation who makes souffle you just have to learn how to do them.

Third time’s the charm?