High Court denies Omagh Meat workers the right to strike

The democratic right of workers in the North to take strike action was dealt a real blow in October after the High Court granted an injunction against workers at Omagh Meats from going on strike. The injunction was issued against the Unite union after the owners of Omagh Meats, Foyle Food Group (FFG) submitted a request at 8pm the night before the strike was due to begin.

The High Court ordered FFG to pay the court costs – a paltry figure compared to the money they stood to lose as a result of the threatened industrial action.
150 workers balloted in favour of taking industrial action after rejecting a 1.5% pay offer from management – an insulting offer when you consider the company made £2.4 million in profits last year. In response to the court ruling Unite proceeded to re-ballot members at Omagh Meats for strike action which forced another pay offer from management and was accepted by Unite members.
More and more the courts are being used by bosses to outlaw strike action. Even when workers have jumped through the many hoops contained in the anti-trade union laws, the courts are still denying workers the fundamental right to strike. Recently, BA workers, train drivers and BT workers have all been served with injunctions for the most irrelevant and non-consequential of reasons.
With major public sector cuts and more attacks on pay and conditions fast approaching, workers who find themselves having no choice but to resort to strike action will come up against the anti-trade union laws and the courts. After 13 years of Labour Party government, the Tories anti-union laws were left untouched. The Socialist Party does not support a casual, light-minded defiance of these laws which would threaten the assets of the unions etc. But the trade unions must prepare now to defy the anti-union laws at a certain point, just as postal workers in Belfast’s Tomb St depot did in 2006 and the Lindsey oil refinery workers did in 2009. These militant unofficial strikes showed that such repressive laws can be made unenforceable in the face of mass strike action.

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