Heatons Transport (St. Helens) Ltd v TGWU (Interim Proceedings)

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeLord Wilberforce,Lord Pearson,Lord Diplock,Lord Cross of Chelsea,Lord Salmon
Judgment Date26 July 1972
Judgment citation (vLex)[1972] UKHL J0726-1
Date26 July 1972
CourtHouse of Lords
Heatons Transport (St. Helens) Limited
The Transport and General Workers Union


Craddock Brothers
The Transport and General Workers Union


Panalpina Services Limited
Panalpina (Northern) Limited
The Transport and General Workers Union

[1972] UKHL J0726-1

Lord Wilberforce

Lord Pearson

Lord Diplock

Lord Cross of Chelsea

Lord Salmon

House of Lords

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Heaton's Transport (St. Helens) Ltd. and others against Transport and General Workers Union, that the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Monday the 10th, as on Tuesday the 11th, Wednesday the 12th, Thursday the 13th, Monday the 17th, Tuesday the 18th and Wednesday the 19th, days of this instant July, upon the Petition and Appeal of Heaton's Transport (St. Helens) Ltd. whose registered office is at Merton Street, Merton Bank Road, Saint Helens, Lancashire, Craddock Brothers whose principal place of business is at Slade Heath Garage, Old Stafford Road, Coven, Wolverhampton, Panalpina Services Limited whose registered offices are at Panalpina House, 3 City Road, Bradford, Yorkshire and of Panalpina (Northern) Limited whose registered offices are at St. George's Chambers, 3 Westgate, Bradford, Yorkshire, praying, That the matter of the Orders set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely Orders of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal of the 13th of June 1972 might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Orders might be reversed, varied or altered, or that the Petitioners might have such other relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, might seem meet; as also upon the Case of the Transport and General Workers Union, lodged in answer to the said Appeal; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause: It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her Majesty the Queen assembled, That the said Orders of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal of the 13th day of June 1972 complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same are hereby, Reversed, and that the Orders of the National Industrial Relations Court referred to in the Schedule to the said Petition and Appeal be, and the same are hereby. Restored: And it is further Ordered, That in respect of the first five Appeals to this House (which said Appeals relate to Contempt of Court), the Respondents do pay or cause to be paid to the said Appellants the Costs incurred by them in the Courts below, and also the Costs incurred by them in respect of the said Appeals to this House, such Costs to be taxed on a Common Fund basis, the amount of such last-mentioned Costs to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments: And it is further Ordered, That in respect of the remaining three Appeals to this House the Respondents do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Appellants the Costs incurred by them in the Court of Appeal, and also the Costs incurred by them in respect of the said Appeals to this House, the amount of such last-mentioned Costs to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments: And it is also further Ordered, That the Cause be, and the same is hereby, remitted back to the National Industrial Relations Court, to do therein as shall be just and consistent with this Judgment.

My Lords,

The House is concerned with an appeal from eight orders of the Court of Appeal which in each case had set aside orders made between 29th March 1972 and 18th May 1972 by the National Industrial Relations Court ("the Court").

In the discussion of the principal issues involved in this appeal, a summary of the effect of these orders will suffice. For convenience a timetable of the relevant dates is set out in an Appendix.

The applications to the Court were made by the three Appellants. These were (i) Heatons Transport (St. Helens) Ltd. (ii) Craddock Brothers (iii) Panalpina Services Ltd., and Panalpina (Northern) Ltd., which have been treated as a single business. Each Appellant complained in effect that the Respondents, the Transport and General Workers Union, by a committee of shop stewards, had committed an unfair industrial practice by "blacking" their lorries, and asked first for relief by injunction and for compensation. Each Appellant also sought interim relief by way of injunction. The applications were successful. Heatons and Craddocks subsequently alleged that the injunctions had not been complied with, and the Court fined the Union £5,000 for contempt on the first occasion and on the second occasion fined the Union £50,000 and ordered it to pay Craddock's costs. On the 20th April 1972 the Court made final orders in favour of both Heatons and Craddocks, ordering the blacking to cease.

Up to this point the Respondent Union had taken no part in the proceedings and filed no evidence. On 3rd May 1972 the Respondent Union applied for a review of the orders imposing the fines; on 12th May 1972 the Court rejected this application and affirmed its orders. Finally on the 18th May 1972, on the application of Panalpina, the Court held that the Union had committed an unfair industrial practice and made a final order for it to cease and adjourned any award of compensation.

The appeals to the Court of Appeal thus fell into three groups:

I. Appeals against the orders imposing the fines of £5,000 and £50,000 and in the case of Craddocks ordering the Union to pay costs;

II. Appeals against the three final orders made on the application of Heatons, Craddocks and Panalpina;

III. Appeals against the refusal to review the orders imposing the fines.

All these appeals were dealt with together in the Court of Appeal and disposed of by a single reasoned judgment. In this House, too, they were brought on by a combined appeal.

No extensive narrative is needed to introduce the issues. The background is well known. The spread of containerisation as created serious problems and stresses as between two groups of workers, both as it happens members of the Respondent Union. The dock workers fear the loss of their jobs: the transport workers, and the firms they work for, loss of their business and the employment it brings. Unless some agreement can be come to, the dockers will oppose the spread, or working, of containerisation and groupage, and this will provoke resistance from the transport workers. What has brought about the present proceedings is the blacking of the lorries of firms who are in or connected with the road transport business, a well-recognised form of industrial action—indeed the most natural form of it in this context. Heatons is an old established road haulage and warehouse company: it does not carry out groupage. All its employees are members of the Union. Craddocks are haulage contractors: they do not carry out groupage and all their employees are members of the Union. Amongst other things they provide, at Liverpool, tractors to pull lorries loaded with containers. The two Panalpina companies carry on business at a container depot near the Hull Docks. Panalpina Services Ltd. are warehousemen and hauliers and employ the labour which loads containers and deliver or collect goods from the Hull docks. All their employees, except clerical staff, are members of the Union. Lorries of each firm have been blacked on a number of relevant occasions, the details of which have been deposed to but which it is not necessary to narrate. The view which the Court has taken of this industrial action is expressed in the following passage:

"…it is clear that the dockers are genuinely apprehensive that the rise in container traffic will deprive some of them of their livelihood. Whilst we would hope that this could be settled by discussion, industrial action in support of their demands is perfectly lawful but it must be the right action. Given the appropriate notice, dock workers can withdraw their labour from their employers, as can drivers of container vehicles; but what cannot be done, save by a registered union, is what appears to have been done in this case." (Judgment of 27th March 1972.)

In order to explain this distinction between industrial action which is legitimate and that which is not, it is necessary to refer to some provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. As is well known, that Act repealed previous legislation affecting Trade Unions, in particular the Trade Disputes Act 1906 and the Trade Disputes Act 1965 each of which protected Trade Unions against legal action which would otherwise have been admissible in the Courts.

The Act of 1971 in the first place made a distinction between registered Trade Unions (i.e. those registered under that Act) and unregistered Trade Unions. Registered Trade Unions have fiscal advantages, and are given certain powers in relation to closed shop agreements or agency shop agreements. What is material for the present case is the protection given them and their officials in relation to Unfair Industrial Practices. "Unfair Industrial Practices" is a new conception introduced by the Act. They are introduced by section 1 which defines the general principles laid down by the Act for the purpose of promoting good industrial relations, one such being—"the principle of freedom and security for workers, protected by adequate safeguards against unfair industrial practices, whether on the part of employers or others." A number of unfair industrial practices are defined in various parts of the Act. That relevant here is stated in section 96:

"96.—(1) It shall be an unfair industrial practice for any person, in contemplation or furtherance of an industrial dispute, knowingly to induce or threaten to induce another person to break a contract to which that other person is a party, unless the person so inducing or threatening to induce the breach of contract—

It is important to notice that "trade...

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67 cases
2 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases
    • Canada
    • Irwin Books Archive The Law of Equitable Remedies. Second Edition
    • 18 June 2013
    .................................................... 54 Heatons Transport (St. Helens) Ltd. v. Transport & General Workers’ Union (1972), [1973] A.C. 15, [1972] 3 W.L.R. 431, [1972] 3 All E.R. 101 (H.L.) ......................................................................... 444 Heck v. 1011......
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    • 1 December 1999
    ...torts (Lloyd v Grace, Smith & Co[1912] AC 716 at 725 (HL); Heatons Transport (St Helens) Ltd v Transport and General Workers Union[1972] 3 All ER 101 (HL); Adams (Durham) Ltd & Day v Trust Houses Ltd[1990] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 380), or expressly forbade him from doing so (Limpus v London General O......

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