Overturn Shrewsbury convictions – and scrap today’s anti-strike laws!

The Free Our Unions campaign sends its full support to the trade unionists currently pursuing a Court of Appeal case to overturn their 1972 convictions for their role in a construction workers’ strike over pay and health and safety issues.

The appellants are the 14 surviving members of the “Shrewsbury 24”. One of the long-running campaigns in their defence writes: “Our campaign is seeking to overturn the unjust prosecution of 24 building workers who were charged following the first ever national building workers strike in 1972. They picketed building sites in Shrewsbury during the dispute and were prosecuted in Shrewsbury Crown Court in 1973. They became known as the ‘Shrewsbury 24’.”

The court has heard how state departments, including MI5, colluded in securing the conviction, on grounds including affray, unlawful assembly, and conspiracy to intimidate.

These convictions predate the anti-union and anti-strike legislation introduced by the Thatcher and Major governments. MI5’s involvement is an indication of how worried the British state was about the power of organised labour. Today, our movement is weaker and less combative, but faces significantly greater formal legal shackles – which are both a product of, and a contributing factor to, the much lower levels of militancy.

As part of a campaign to support the overturning of these convictions, the movement must renew campaigning against all existing and proposed anti-strike and anti-union laws. As the Shrewsbury case shows, in periods of high class struggle, the state will seek to use the judiciary system to undermine effective trade unionism, whether or not it is equipped with specifically anti-strike/anti-union legislation. But the existence of such legislation gives the state and the ruling class significant additional weapons, and forces our side to fight with one hand behind our backs.

Solidarity with the Shrewsbury pickets – scrap all anti-strike and anti-union laws!

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