Unions have called for secondary strikes to be made lawful again – a right that was removed by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1990.
The unions made the unanimous call for the right to take secondary action at the TUC conference in Brighton in an emergency motion to allow ‘lawful supportive action’.
As the law stands, if any employee is dismissed during unofficial action (as with the Gate Gourmet Heathrow dispute) such an employee is barred from complaining of unfair dismissal.
Tony Woodley, the leader of the T&G, said that anti-union laws brought in by former Conservative governments were “a green light for greed, a charter for cowboy capitalists, a license for bullying – and they should go now”.
The debate highlights the increasingly fractious relationship between the Labour government and the unions.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said Labour needed to give something back to the union movement and “can’t just expect our cheque every four years and get nothing in return”. (The RMT was expelled from the Labour party last year for allowing its branches to support other parties.)
Alan Johnson, Trade and Industry Secretary, said the government would not bow to the union demands.
“We’re not inclined to go to the British public and say “Vote for us and we’ll make it easier for BA baggage handlers to walk out unballoted in industrial action that has nothing to do with their employer,” he said.