ASLEF ‘takes step for industrial freedom’

04 March 2011

Keith Norman, ASLEF’s general secretary, greeted today’s Court of Appeal decision about the right to strike as ‘a major step for industrial freedom’. He said the judgement meant, 'Trade unionists once again have the same human rights as any other citizen.'


The legal decision – made on appeal and therefore creating precedent – is the result of ASLEF contesting last December’s High Court decision to give London Midland an injunction to prevent industrial action. That was based on ‘defective’ notice given by the union and ‘inadequate’ explanations we had offered to describe the steps we had taken.


The Court of Appeal today agreed with the union and discharged the injunction which prevented our members taking lawful strike action. ASLEF, and other unions, have argued that the law permitting legal strikes is over-technical and that courts have often declared strikes illegal on minor technicalities and the smallest of errors.


This was shown quite clearly when the High Court last December prevented action in London Midland because we had accidentally given voting papers to two (of over 600!) members who we were not intending to call out on strike. The High Court said that was sufficient to grant an injunction. That has been reversed, with the Court of Appeal saying the law should have applied the ‘small accidental failures’ provisions.


The ruling also made clear that while unions must keep a register of members’ names and addresses it cannot always be expected to have an up-to-date record of workplaces or job categories. It also confirmed that the information given by ASLEF in the ballot notification was ‘as accurate as was reasonably practicable’.


‘Before today’s ruling it was effectively impossible to take legal strike action in this country,’ said Keith Norman. ‘If the employer could find the tiniest discrepancy, the courts would find in the employer’s favour. Thanks to today’s decision, a sense of justice and balance has been returned to industrial relations in this country.’

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