The Right to Strike

"The Right To Strike"

Yippee! Workforce Modernisation, just what every prison worker needs.   Now it is voted out, what next?   Well, we have huffed and puffed about taking action if the service attempts to force any part of WFM in and so we must ballot the membership to take industrial action if they dare try it on.   Can we take action legally though?   Of course, the lawyers, service and government may say we cannot, but I beg to differ.

Eventually when 'due process' has taken place (you may ask when will that be? but I couldn't possibly comment), we may once again have our basic union rights back in law. However, let us consider though, how we ended up being one of the most persecuted of workers in terms of our union rights.

The POA was formed in 1939.   This followed the removal of trade union rights from the Police and Prison Officers Union after its strike of 1919.   From 1939 until 1993, the POA enjoyed full trade union rights, including the right to take industrial action.   Having said that, Prison Officers very rarely took any form of industrial action and indeed strike action with regard to pay has never been taken.  

In the early '90s, following severe problems with overcrowding of prisons and the resulting terrible conditions caused for both staff and prisoners, the POA determined that it would not accept prisoners into the two most overcrowded prisons in Europe - Preston and Hull.   In response to this action the Tory Home Secretary Michael Howard took the POA to court and was able to convince our learned friends that the POA was not and never had been a trade union, categorising us as soldiers, police officers and civil servants.   Having the "powers of a constable" when arresting escaping prisoners, it seems, was enough to debar us from any legitimate trade union rights, thus effectively negating any recourse to strike or industrial action.  

Of course, we and the opposition Labour Party Home Affairs spokesman rightly condemned the...