The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 8th August 1980

On the day that Prior's Codes came out - bosses seek new curbs on unions

Neither the Employment Act nor the 'Codes of Practice' have satisfied the bosses' appetite for trade union blood, only given them the taste for more. This became clear on the very day that Prior's Codes were unleashed on a horrified trade union movement.

As the millionaire media were flashing the details of are Codes into millions of homes, a less-noticed set of instructions were making their way to Prior's office from the headquarters of the Confederation of British Industry.

The employers are, of course, delighted by what has been achieved in the hamstringing of the trade union movement during Thatcher's first full Parliamentary session.

The relatively low level of organised opposition to their plans so far has convinced them that more, much more, can be done without the boat being rocked clean out of control.

And they are certain that more must be done if wages are to be forced down to the kind of rock-bottom levels needed before the Government's planners will permit a major reduction in interest rates, easing the bosses' own problems.


Prior's codes - a set of orders to the Courts on how they should interpret the deliberately jumbled legal double-talk of the Employment Act -themselves provide a launching-pad for the kind of frontal assault that the bosses seek.

Provisions urged by Tory back-benchers which were opposed by Prior in Parliament now enter British law through the Codes' back-door.

That fact in itself should tell the worker just how much Prior's 'Mr Nice' act is really worth and should underline the utter impermissibility of talks between the trade unions and the Tory regime.

Back-bench demands for an increase in the 80 per cent (four-fifths) requirement for endorsement of closed shop plans by secret ballot are, for example, effectively conceded by the Codes.

Employers are told, and the Courts are given a heavy hint, that an 80 per cent 'yes' vote should not be seen in itself as endorsement by workers of their desire for a closed shop. On the contrary, employers are told that they 'may well think' a higher percentage to be required.


Likewise on picketing.

Even police representatives have told the Tories that the old picketing laws normally worked satisfactorily and that problems might arise if they were made tougher. Prior has decided to face those problems.

Even a puny six-man picket, one debarred from doing any- thing more than having the most mild-mannered chat with approaching lorry-drivers and others, could well prove to be too strong a force under the Codes' interpretation of the law.

A trade union full-timer will generally be expected to be in charge of the picket and inter-union disputes-however justified - will be effectively outlawed by the requirement that full-timers of all unions involved in a dispute must co-ordinate their picketing orders.

And there's the question of the items which the pickets hope to stop being brought on site. If these are 'essential supplies' - whatever that means - stopping them may well put pickets into deep trouble.

All picketing must be of the respectable 'primary' variety. Yes, some picketing which the Tories call 'secondary' will still be permitted but, in reality, the exceptions are all of kinds that every active trade unionist would consider put them in the 'primary' class.

Solidarity picketing action, it is perfectly clear from the Act and the Codes, is now a short route to the Courts, criminal ones as well as civil.

Hence, of course, the 'scabs' charter' element in the Tory package. On the one hand, any- one can get out of a requirement to join the appropriate union for the sake of saying it offends his beliefs and, on the other, rule book provisions on disciplining strike-breaking members go out the window.


With a package like this, what more goodies can the Confederation of British Industry possibly want? Answer - lots.

First and foremost they want the Government to make some forms of strike action illegal. Their suggestion that the right to strike be legally defined is in fact, a demand that this right, shaky though it is be further substantially curtailed.

Likewise with their request to Prior to look again at establishing a firm legal status for trade unions, and thus for contracts between trade unions and employers. This is aimed at opening the flood-gates to a torrent of crippling Court cases which would effectively deter union leaderships from authorising strikes.

Under one, apparently favoured, 'alternative' proposal by the CBI, the entire structure of industrial relations might be brought within the purview of the Courts. This would be the absolute end for democratic, effective, trade unions.

The first 15 months of Tory rule should serve as an awesome reminder to Britain's workers of one simple fact - compromise with the capitalist class is a sure way to working-class slavery.


Either a stand is taken now or the further proposals put forward by the CBI will find their way to the Statute Book. Once they have been enacted, there will be more and more and more slave statutes to follow.

Those trade unions who have stated that they will not 00- operate with the new Act and Codes are right. Those who have said that they will not take Tory Government money for secret ballots are to be congratulated.

The test of how much these statements mean will, however, come on the first day that solidarity action is needed and the decision has to be taken on whether it is to be put into effect.

This paper will be backing all those who stick by trade union principle when that day comes. It will be supporting those who seek to enshrine those principles in decisions at this year's TUC and Labour Party conferences.

Those, and there are some who find themselves at the sharp end of this new attack by the bosses' State can be sure that they will have one weekly friend whose voice will not be stilled by fear of laws made by and for the ruling class.

But those who urge renewed talks with the enemy, the avoidance of conflict with Tory laws and the acceptance of the bosses' riches to undermine real trade union democracy must be warned. We will be merciless.