Immunity from being sued for taking part in an industrial dispute had been abolished in 1982 and the natural and essential reaction of sympathy or solidarity action to support workers in dispute had been made illegal. Any union flouting court decisions ran the risk of sequestration.
Less than three weeks after the start of the strike and the dismissals, in response to SOGAT's refusal to comply with the order of the court to lift the ban on the handling of News International newspapers, all the funds and assets of SOGAT – buildings, bank accounts and chapel (workplace union branch) sick clubs' monies – were seized. Accountants Ernst and Whinney were appointed as sequestrators by the court. They became the administrators of the union.
It was illegal for SOGAT to spend any money. To function during sequestration meant finance in cash and dependence on the generosity of other trade union and labour-movement organisations. Support groups also helped the union to continue to fund hardship and resource the dispute.
Two months later the Court of Appeal ruled that SOGAT branch monies should not have been seized along with the national union assets, following court action by SOGAT London Clerical Branch.
Fifteen weeks into the dispute SOGAT purged its contempt in order to regain control of its assets by assuring the court that the instruction to ban the handling of News International titles would be lifted. The national union strategy would be to concentrate on the boycott campaign. The London Branches and the strikers were appalled and vowed to escalate the dispute with demonstrations and picketing.
Fines and penalties imposed by the courts, dispute and hardship payments and running the unions meant that both SOGAT and NGA had to seek their general membership's authority to apply a special levy. The NGA was successful and applied a national levy; SOGAT's call for a levy was defeated in a national ballot late in 1986.
In January 1987 the company issued two writs for substantial damages and to begin contempt of court proceedings against SOGAT and NGA alleging breach of High Court injunctions with the risk of sequestration.