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South Wales Miners’ Federation v Glamorgan Coal Co Ltd [1905] AC 239

Tort - Contract - Procuring Breach of Contract - Cause of Action - Interference with Legal Right - Malice - Justification

Facts:

The federation was a trade union, formed to consider trade and wages, to protect the workmen and regulate relations. The wages were paid on a sliding scale agreement in accordance with the rising and falling price of coal. The federation feared the wages would fall too low with the price of coal and called for several “stop days” for the workmen, causing 100,000 men to break their contracts. Glamorgan sued for interference and procuring a breach of contract.

Issues:

Whether the action of the Federation was justified in circumstances where their action was without malice or intent to harm, or whether it amounted to an unlawful interference by a third party.

Held:

Procuring a breach of contract is an actionable wrong unless there is a justification for the interference, by way of a legal right. The miners would found to be in breach of their contracts by failing to give notice of abstaining from work. Even though the federation could not be found to have acted with malice or with ill-will towards the employers as their only object was to protect the wages of the coalminers, their conduct was still an unjustified interference. Their action procured a number of people to break their contracts which was manifestly unlawful and did cause serious damage to Glamorgan, who were entitled to have their contracts performed. The coalminers were acting in their own interests and there was found to be no moral ground that had caused the Federation to take unlawful action.


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