Network Rail Granted Injunction Against Rail Strikes

(Guardian) – A HIGH COURT JUDGE today granted Network Rail a temporary injunction to block next week’s planned four-day rail strike by signal workers.

Mrs Justice Sharp made the temporary order after being told that the planned walkout, called by the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union was unlawful because of the way a strike ballot was conducted.

Network Rail said there were scores of “inaccuracies and deficiencies” in the vote of signal workers who backed a walkout with a majority of 54%.

Charles Bear QC, representing the company, said “the union fell short in multiple respects” of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act of 1992.

Frederic Reynold QC, for the union, said the RMT went to “very considerable lengths” to ensure that the ballot was accurate. But Mrs Justice Sharp ruled there were sufficient grounds for granting the injunction.

It does not affect a separate dispute involving maintenance workers who still plan to go ahead with strikes next week. This is expected to cause only minor disruption.

The union is now expected to organise a new ballot of signal workers.

The dispute was prompted by concerns over Network Rail’s plan to cut 1,500 jobs and increase evening and weekend maintenance work.

Network Rail’s successful challenge follows a similar tactic adopted by British Airways when it turned to the courts to avert a threatened strike by cabin crew over Christmas.

The legal challenge forced Unite to reballot its members over a strike. The walkouts went ahead earlier this month after the second vote, but the delay gave BA more time to prepare contingency plans to break the strike.

Network Rail said the irregularities in the vote included:

  • balloting 11 signal boxes that have been closed for years
  • recording more votes than employees in 67 locations
  • failing to ballot 26 workplaces involving 100 staff
  • balloting 12 locations where staff were ineligible to vote.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said the legal challenge was a “scandalous attempt” to use anti-union laws to prevent the workers exercising their right to strike.

The union expressed disgust at the order and said it would organise another ballot.

Crow said: “This judgment is an attack on the whole trade union movement and twists the anti-union laws even further in favour of the bosses.

“Workers fighting for the principle of a safe railway have had the whole weight of the law thrown against them. Our executive will meet this evening with a recommendation for a re-ballot.

“Our fight for safe working practices on Britain’s railways goes on.”