Railway ruling merits cool-headed response

AS A general principle the courts should not become involved in industrial disputes. In this country, they are usually settled by talks between unions and employers, negotiating and indulging in good old-fashioned compromise.

But the intervention by the High Court yesterday to stop the planned national rail strike by the RMT union should be welcomed not just by the travelling public but by everyone who believes in reasonable industrial relations.

It is clear from the ruling that the court granted an injunction to Network Rail – putting a halt to a proposed four-day strike due to start next Tuesday – because it believed the company's claim that there were discrepancies in the union's ballot for industrial action.

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The claims that signal boxes that do not exist were balloted and that in some places the numbers of union members balloted exceeded the total number of employees, tell their own story.

With these in mind, the claim by Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, that the judgment was an attack on the whole trade union movement rings hollow. Mr Crow claimed the strike was over safety fears but the evidence is it was more to do with resisting reasonable changes.

Rather than re-ballot, Mr Crow should recognise the futility of his militant rhetoric and negotiate a deal which modernises working conditions and keeps trains running. And if anything undermines the trade union movement it's running a ballot like an election in Zimbabwe.