By politics.co.uk staff
A rail strike planned for next Tuesday will not go ahead.
After a case brought in the High Court by Network Rail, the railway workers' union RMT will not be allowed to hold an official strike for four days next week.
The RMT announced a four day strike to begin on April 6th but Network Rail said that there were sufficient discrepancies in the ballot which approved the industrial action to throw its legitimacy into doubt.
The result of the ballot of RMT members came out 1705 to 1481 in favour of the four day strike, which was set to follow unofficial walk-outs.
But Network Rail says there was doubt over at least 300 votes; they claim some votes were recorded as being cast by staff in 11 signal boxes which have been closed for years, and that in more than 60 workplaces the number of votes cast exceeded the workforce. It also claims that 26 workplaces were not balloted, including Rugby signal box, with 100 staff.
In a written argument before the court, Charles Bear QC, for Network Rail, said: "The strike will have the effect of preventing about 80% of all rail services in the UK, so causing immense damage to the economy, to businesses depending on rail for freight and/or transport of commuting workers, and to a great many individual rail users."
He said it would also 'profoundly damage' the train operating companies and Network Rail.
The court decided that the balloting process had not been conducted properly, regardless of whether it would have affected the results and gave Network rail its injunction.
Commenting on the verdict, Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, Norman Baker said: "This is good news for passengers who would have been the innocent victims of the strike.
"However, this is a temporary reprieve. It's time for Network Rail and the RMT to get back round the table.
"The RMT must put the problems of the railway ahead of political point-scoring."
But TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber expressed concern at the use of courts to prevent strikes said:"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."
Shadow Transport Secretary, Theresa Villiers claimed that the verdict was a victory for for the Conservative Party: "While Gordon Brown and his weak Government were powerless in the face of growing union militancy, the strike laws passed by the last Conservative Government have brought the country back from the brink of transport meltdown.
"This unnecessary and irresponsible strike would have been bad for passengers, bad for business and bad for the economy. Now the courts have called a halt to the strike, every effort should be made to negotiate a settlement of this dispute."
RMT leader Bob Crow said he was "very disappointed" with the verdict and added: "We're going to fight back."
"The reality is that they can put the trade unions in a straightjacket, we're going to fight back."
He said a further ballot for strike action would be recommended.
Mr Crow added: "That was round one. Round two will start very shortly."
"We're out to stop the deterioration of the safety network."