Wednesday 11 June 2008

Threat of Emergency Powers to be Invoked against Striking Tanker Drivers

I have said all I can on the issue of the 42 days vote in the Commons in an article today on the Guardian's website "Comment is Free." I can't get much angrier at the behaviour of the Prime Minister and the Labour MPs who supported this attack on human rights. But just after the vote on 42 days detention when you thought the assault on people's civil liberties couldn't get worse the Government has briefed the press that it is threatening to invoke emergency powers in the oil tanker drivers' dispute to draft in soldiers to drive the tankers and break the strike. The drivers are members of UNITE.

When the Government introduced the Civil Contingencies Act many of us warned that it would be used against trade unionists and this latest threat from Downing Street confirms the role emergency powers can be used to undermine trade union rights.

Just at a time when there are attempts to achieve a negotiated settlement to the tanker drivers' dispute this inflammatory threat will exacerbate the situation and undermine the potential for resolving the dispute.

If the troops are brought in by the Government the leadership of UNITE will need to consider seriously whether now is the time to call for solidarity action from other union members and other unions no matter what the current law says about the illegality of solidarity action.