Home » News/Views » Costly advice

Costly advice

Whenever there is mention of industrial action, legal firms come out to offer advice to employers on the ins and outs of law on balloting. This legislation was put in place during the Thatcher years (but never changed by Labour) to undermine the tactical flexibility of workers characterised by the idea of guerrilla struggle.

Even though the legislation was set up to make life difficult for trade unions to operate a “legal” ballot, most employers also find it hard to understand. And even some lawyers struggle with the law.

One legal firm acknowledged recently that unions know more about operating this legislation than employers – and that unions get it right most of the time. So as well as advising employers on the nuts and bolts of the legislation, lawyers are also advising on how to use the legislation to attack the unions and workers.

Advice seen by Workers includes testing the unions on what they have done – “even if you know it is correct”; spying and initiating propaganda wars – “find a safe source to pass you union material – try and turn it against them”; and exploiting other workers – “consider using staff on zero hours contracts to undermine the strike”.

Employers have always done this, but it’s interesting to see it in writing – and from lawyers.

Unions should also keep an eye on situations where public sector employers engage lawyers. Is it a good use of public money to pay lawyers to find ways of tripping unions up when employers should be addressing the dispute in hand?