In response to the impact of August 2007’s 12-hour strike, Justice Secretary Jack Straw announced plans for a strike-ban for prison officers on January 8. Tabled as an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, the measure will be discussed in Parliament as Solidarity goes to press.
The decision to reintroduce a strike-ban contradicts its repeal in 2005, when David Blunkett replaced an all-out “reserve power” banning striking with a “voluntary” no-strike agreement, due to expire in May 2008. The Prison Officers’ Association gave 12 months notice of withdrawal from this agreement in May 2007, and New Labour are clearly attempting to replace it with a renewed ban before then.
Although socialists don’t regard prison officers as workers, or the Prisons Officers’ Association as a normal trade union, this move is a strengthening of New Labour’s anti-trade union laws and should be opposed.