Unite in key right to picket legal victory in north west Sutton Tankers dispute

Unite, the UK’s largest union, has won a key legal victory overturning attempts to restrict the right to picket during strike action.
The legal case arose as a result of a dispute involving Sutton Tanker workers based at Ellesmere Port. The 30 workers have been on strike since Friday 19 January as a result of the company’s plan to dismiss and re-engage them on inferior terms and conditions, which would result in their pay being slashed.
On Wednesday 24 January, Unite was given less than 30 minutes’ warning that Eastham Oil Refinery Ltd of Ellesmere Port, where the workers are based, was in court seeking an injunction to prevent picketing in the locality.
As Unite was given no time to attend court and defend the case, a temporary injunction was granted and the case was adjourned until Thursday 1 February.
At last week’s hearing, Unite overturned the injunction and secured the right to picket at the entrances of the lorry park. The court confirmed the separate right to conduct lawful protests on the public highway.
Unite, which had already proposed what the court eventually ordered, was awarded full legal costs from 12:00 on Tuesday 30 January. Eastham Oil Refinery Ltd was refused any costs for the hearing on 24 January or following, owing to failings with its application.
The case was handled by Unite’s Strategic Case Unit.
Unite assistant general secretary for legal services, Howard Beckett, said: “This was a key legal victory. It was vital to preserve the right to picket during a lawful dispute.
“If Unite had been unsuccessful, the fundamental right of freedom of association would have been greatly restricted.
“Frankly, the action of Eastham Oil Refinery in seeking an injunction without allowing Unite to mount a defence was contemptible and I hope this defeat will persuade other companies not to try the same tactic in the future.”
The Sutton Tankers’ strike is continuing and today (Monday 4 February) it enters its third week.
Unite regional officer, Colin Carr, said: “Although Sutton Tankers has made a slightly improved offer, this has been rejected by the workforce as it in no way meets the expectations of the workforce, who still face sweeping cuts in pay.
“We urge the management at Sutton Tankers to make a vastly improved offer in order to ensure that we can return to the negotiating table.
“Unite remains ready and willing to meet Sutton Tankers at any time in order to resolve this dispute."