Virgin Media has effectively rigged its staff referendum on trade union recognition, but there will be no retribution from government or courts.
When a union ballots its members for strike action, it must give at least one week's notice to an employer, announce the date of the ballot and provide information so an employer can make plans.
For the ballot to be legal it has to be supervised by a qualified independent person - usually the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) - the voting paper must be posted to members' homes and be explicit about the issue involved.
Failure to meet balloting rules can lead to a court order banning industrial action. If the union ignores the order, it can be fined heavily.
Virgin gave the Communications Workers Union (CWU) a few days' notice, kept up a barrage of one-sided anti-union propaganda and interfered in the running of the ballot, phoning workers at home telling them that they had not yet voted and should do so.
Had the procedure been carried out by the ERS, neither employer nor union would have had access to voting information.
Virgin sent out ballot material to staff before informing the CWU of its intent to hold a referendum.
It would be illegal for a union to behave in this way, since it is obliged under law to provide the employer with a sample voting paper at least three days before the ballot.
Unlike union ballots, there was no legal framework to decide on extent of the electorate.
This, says the CWU, meant that the company included staff not currently covered by union recognition agreements to swell the anti-union vote.
Yet in spite of this one-sided unfair process, Virgin won agreement for its non-recognition proposal by just 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
It has acted swiftly to axe joint consultative procedures with immediate effect despite the bilateral recognition agreement laying down that three-month notice should be given.
Had there been a history of industrial conflict at Virgin its antagonism to trade unionism might be understood, but that is not the case.
There have been no strikes or breakdowns in industrial relations, which can only lead to speculation over what Virgin may have in the pipeline for its workforce.
It is difficult to believe that ending union recognition has been rammed through simply on a whim or a new-found principle.
No doubt CWU and Bectu, which also organises at Virgin, will urge members to retain their union cards and to prepare for a campaign to increase membership density and win back recognition rights.
This should serve as a warning to all unions. If Virgin Media succeeds in this dodgy procedure, other opportunist companies will be tempted to emulate it.
Unions in Britain have to fight with - at best - one hand tied behind their backs as a result of anti-union legislation in which all major parties have been complicit.
Labour has a responsibility to speak out on this issue and to assure the trade union movement that it will lift these legal shackles.
New Labour hostility to trade unionism was not actively challenged as unions preferred to keep their heads down in the cause of Labour Party unity. That mistake must not be repeated.
Unions must insist that the party they founded is on their side in their battles to represent working people.
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