High Court Injunction Against DLR Strike

From Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary:

I write to advise branches that last week the High Court granted Serco Docklands an injunction preventing RMT from organising a 48 hour strike on the Docklands Light Railway. Yet again an employer has run to a High Court Judge to use the Anti trade union laws to ignore the democratic will of members. This decision has ramifications not just for RMT but across the whole Trade Union Movement and is the latest of a long line of high court decisions against trade unions.

We have been in dispute with Serco Docklands for a substantial part of the last twelve months and this ballot was called due to a serious and ongoing breakdown of industrial relations. The GGC called a ballot for strike action and industrial action short of a strike which was held over the Christmas period with members voting by well over 80% in favour of industrial action. A 48 hour strike was called and was due to start on Thursday 20th January. Rather than negotiating a resolution to the dispute at pre arranged ACAS talks the company decided to focus on running to the courts to seek an injunction over an obscure administrative point of law. Despite a robust defence from our legal team we lost the case and we were forced by a court order to call off the planned 48 hour strike action.

I am sure you are all aware that over the last few years a number of high profile High Court injunctions have been granted against Trade Unions banning industrial action in a number of disputes. The most prominent recent examples are the disputes on Network Rail and British Airways. The result of these decisions, and others since the anti trade union laws were enacted, is to create even more onerous administrative burdens that unions have to go through in order to comply with balloting legislation. The whole process is clearly designed to make it easier and easier for an employer to find fault with our balloting process and thus get a court to declare a strike ballot illegal. RMT has always been very determined to make sure our ballots comply with existing legal requirements and we have consistently changed our procedures where necessary based on current legal advice. There was nothing we could have done to prevent the judge making this decision and the goalposts have been moved yet again.

The Council of Executives has met to discuss this matter and decided that we should seek to appeal this decision to the Court of Appeal as a matter of urgency and our Case is currently in the hands of our legal team. A re-ballot of our Serco Docklands members is also being prepared should our appeal prove unsuccessful. I also understand that ASLEF lost an injunction hearing on similar grounds just before Christmas and that they have just been granted an opportunity to appeal by the Courts. The C of E has instructed me to contact ASLEF to seek a joint approach between the unions over these claims. On a further note you will be aware from previous circulars that we have already submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights on the basis that UK balloting law breaches the Human Rights Act.

In conclusion, this latest judgement demonstrates just how the Anti Trade Union laws are being exploited to prevent unions calling lawful industrial action. The burdons being placed on unions to administer ballots are becoming ever more onerous and we cannot allow this decision to go un-appealed. This case yet again highlights even more the need for all trade unionists to support the campaign to repeal these disgraceful anti trade union laws.

As matters progress I will keep you informed of developments as regards our appeal and any other issues highlighted in this circular.

Yours Sincerely

Bob Crow
General Secretary