Austin sues strike unions
By Barrie Clement
Austin Rover is suing eight of Britain’s biggest trade unions for up to £1.6 million over a pay strike last autumn. The car company has sent a “statement of claim” to the unions concerned which could result in damages of up to £250,000 being awarded against the Transport and General Workers Union, the biggest involved, down to £50,000 against the pattern makers.
The civil action is under last year’s Trade Union Act which states that strikes are only immune from litigation if they are authorized by secret ballots. A court official seized £200,000 from the TGWU at the end of last year for contempt after the union refused to withdraw its authorization of the stoppage. The new case could take months to come to court. The company declared at the time of the stoppage that it would pursue legal action but few trade unionists expected it to do so after the strike, lasting two and a half weeks, collapsed.
Only the transport workers continued their defiance and refused to withdraw approval of the action. The Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunication and Plumbing Union ordered a ballot and Amalgamated Union Engineering Workers refused to declare the stoppage official. But Austin Rover is pursuing the claim because it says that officials of all eight unions were represented on the employees’ side of the national joint negotiating committee, which called the strike.