Rail strike blocked by legal challenge

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The Independent Online

Labour Editor

Train drivers' leaders yesterday postponed the start of their campaign of six 24-hour strikes after a legal challenge.

The first day-long stoppage is now scheduled for tomorrow week instead of next Tuesday. The Cardiff Railway Company argued that it had not received the seven days' notice of industrial action required under law.

A British Rail spokesman said the decision to switch the first day's action would cause additional hardship because it would hit families planning weekend trips. The spokesman said management had asked Aslef, the train drivers' union, to think again about its planned disruption. No peace talks are planned.

Lew Adams, the union's general secretary, regretted the inconvenience caused to people who had already planned to make alternative travel arrangements for next Tuesday. He said that under the threat of a litigation the union had no alternative. Aslef plans strikes on 18 and 27 July, 8 and 25 August and 12 September. RMT, the industry's largest union, is announcing the result of its strike ballot tomorrow.

Tony Blair will almost certainly face questions about the dispute when he speaks at the biennial delegate conference of the Transport and General Workers' Union next Monday.

Mr Blair's appearance also follows a TUC report published yesterday which keeps up the pressure on the Labour leadership to set a figure for a national minimum wage ahead of the next general election. Published ahead of a TUC-sponsored conference today on a statutory minimum wage, it says that one in four workers would benefit from a pounds 4 lower limit.

The day after Mr Blair's speech to T&G delegates, the union, Labour's largest affiliate, debates motions in effect calling on the party to drop its commitment to a low pay commission which would advise a Blair administration on the level of a minimum wage. Some of the conference delegates will urge the union to propose a pounds 7 lower limit.

News Analysis, page 15