Bosses’ attempts to extend already draconian anti‑union laws received a blow in the Court of Appeal last week.
The RMT and Aslef transport unions won their appeals against recent court injunctions granted against their members’ strikes on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and London Midland.
In January, Mr Justice Tugendhat had granted an injunction to Serco Docklands stopping a strike by RMT members on the DLR after 162 out of 175 people who’d voted backed action.
But the appeal judge disagreed with his colleague.
Describing the earlier verdict, he said the original judge believed that the explanation as to how the union had arrived at the figures for the ballot “failed to show what had been done, when and by whom” and that the “ballot notice was inaccurate because it purported to represent that the union had carried out an audit, but that was not true.
“The representation was that something more than systematic updating had occurred, but it had not.”
The High Court ruled against Aslef at London Midland last December after the union had accidentally sent voting papers to two members—out of over 600—who were not part of the dispute. Some 86 percent of people had voted to strike in the ballot.
These were just some of the many recent cases where employers have used technicalities in ballots to block workers’ action.
But the Court of Appeal last week reversed both injunctions.
In Aslef’s case it said the law should have applied “small accidental failures” provisions.
The ruling also states that while unions must keep a register of members’ addresses they cannot be expected to have an up-to-date record of workplaces or job categories.
The Court of Appeal also ruled that the RMT’s explanation of how it had arrived at the figures was more than adequate.
Because the ruling was granted on appeal, it will have a precedent in future cases making it more difficult for bosses to block strikes—though they will certainly continue to try.
Bob Crow, the RMT general secretary, said, “The Serco Docklands injunction on balloting process would have taken the anti-union laws in this country to within a whisker of effectively banning the right to strike if it had been allowed to stand.
“It would have tightened the noose around the necks of nurses, firefighters, ambulance crew, home helps and others engaged in fighting back to the point of strangulation.
“This victory today helps clear the path for those workers to take action.”
The unions must now move quickly to calling strikes at the DLR and London Midland, and be prepared to face down any further moves against their rights from the government and the bosses.