The Network Rail signallers’ strike due to take place just after the Easter bank holiday has been held to be illegal and will no longer go ahead, the High Court has ruled.
The rail firm was granted the injunction after discrepancies were found in the ballot for strikes conducted by the RMT workers union.
The strikes by the signalling staff – which were set to start on Tuesday 6 April and continue for three more days – have now been halted. Strikes by Network Rail’s maintenance staff could still go ahead next week, although it is predicted that if they do, they will only cause minor disruption.
The RMT was found to have balloted 11 signal boxes which had been closed for years; recorded more votes than employees in 67 locations; failed to ballot 26 workplaces involving 100 staff; and balloted 12 locations where staff were ineligible to vote.
Signal staff had backed a walkout with a majority of 54%.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said the legal challenge by Network Rail was a “scandalous attempt” to use anti-union laws to prevent workers exercising their right to strike.
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, added: “It’s becoming increasingly easy for employers, unhappy at the prospect of a dispute, to rely on the courts to intervene and nullify a democratic ballot for industrial action on a mere technicality. Unions will be disappointed by this latest decision.
“Disputes between employers and unions should be settled by negotiation. Today’s decision in the court will simply drag the dispute out and make it more difficult to solve.”
The RMT will now have to re-ballot its signalling members for industrial action if it wants to proceed with the dispute, sparked over Network Rail’s plans to cut 1,500 jobs and increase evening and weekend maintenance work.
The injunction came as employers were making preparations for their staff to be able to work remotely next week, while others feared they may have had to close as staff would have struggled to get in to work.
The Network Rail injunction follows that of British Airways, which successfully prevented a cabin crew strike in December.