Socialist Worker

DLR court ruling is an attack on the right to strike

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2236

The legal right to strike received another blow last week as a High Court judge granted an injunction on petty technicalities to halt a 48-hour strike by Docklands Light Railway (DLR) workers in London.

The strike by RMT union members was due to take place on Thursday and Friday of last week over a breakdown in industrial relations.

In a magnificent vote, 162 out of 175 RMT members who had taken part in the ballot backed a strike.

But Mr Justice Tugendhat concluded that the strike was not lawful as the ballot notices were not valid.

At present, a union must notify the employers with the precise numbers of members in each grade and location, and explain how it maintains its membership lists.

Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that the RMT’s membership database was not detailed enough and said that there should be more details on how it was updated.

He granted the Serco Docklands operator an injunction against the strike, stating, “I find the defendant is not likely to succeed [at trial of the action] in establishing that the notices were valid in that the purported explanation is not that required by law.”


This is a further extension of the already draconian anti-union laws, making it almost impossible for unions to organise legal strikes.

Bob Crow, the RMT general secretary, said, “Once again the full weight of the anti-union laws has been brought down on a group of workers making a stand.

“A democratic ballot with a massive majority in favour of action has been overturned on an alleged technicality that would not have made any difference to the outcome of the vote.”

The High Court has ruled against workers on technicalities in a number of disputes over the last few months, including those at Network Rail, British Airways, Johnston Press and others.

This has increased bosses’ hold over their staff by eroding the right to strike.

David Cameron, London mayor Boris Johnson and the CBI bosses’ organisation are all talking about the need to further bolster the anti-union laws. The unions must mobilise to resist this.

Many union leaders have denounced the High Court rulings but have essentially gone along with them. But the only way to beat the anti-union laws, the employers and the judges that back them is to defy the law and take action regardless.

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Tue 25 Jan 2011, 18:35 GMT
Issue No. 2236
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