Last week, the governing body of British trade union Unite proposed to amend its rule book. No longer will it state that the union must always operate within the law. In an opinion article in the Guardian, general secretary Len McCluskey explains why this amendment is necessary. Don’t worry, he assures, we’re no anarchists and we’re not suddenly planning a bank robbery. But we have to ask ourselves whether it’s still possible to always operate within the law.
As an example, he points out that under Thatcher, it was illegal for staff of British intelligence service GCHQ to be a union member. Does that make workers who retained their membership criminals?
He argues that this is not an isolated example. Employers can easily get an injunction against a contemplated strike, even a fully balloted and mandated one. And Conservatives are even planning to make it legal to use agency workers as strike breakers.
McCluskey: “When the law is misguided, when it oppresses the people and removes their freedoms, can we respect it? I am not really posing the question. I’m giving you the answer. It ain’t going to happen.”