Judges' ruling allows union to resume strike

The trade union movement won a rare legal victory yesterday when the Court of Appeal allowed local government workers to resume a strike.

Lord Justice Woolf overturned a High Court ruling which had forced Nalgo members at Newham council, south London, back to work.

His ruling had a wider significance. He and Lords Justices Neill and Butler-Sloss said that union leaders could be 'partisan' in the run-up to a strike ballot and need not adopt an attitude of strict neutrality while their members were deliberating. They also allowed unions to ballot for further action once a dispute had started.

The case was provoked by a nine month dispute between 1,100 Nalgo members who had taken action after the Labour controlled council made three poll tax officers redundant.

The action was escalated after a ballot in July. The union called out 10 per cent of the council's staff. They were forced back to work when the High Court declared the action illegal a month ago because the union had 'promoted' the strike and was therefore in breach of the 1990 Employment Act. The law makes it unlawful for any union to call on its members to vote in favour of industrial action.

Nalgo branded the High Court's ruling as 'extraordinary' and said that it meant that any trade union would be prevented from campaigning for a 'yes' vote. It also meant unions would be prevented from balloting on escalating action during the course of a dispute.

Lord Justice Woolf said it was clear from the evidence that Nalgo, while demonstrating that it wanted industrial action to be extended to other members in addition to those who were already on strike, was not calling on them to strike or authorising or endorsing their striking.

Rather, the union was communicating its decision to authorise a ballot of all its members with a view to more extensive industrial action being taken.

The union was not adopting a neutral stance, but, 'not surprisingly', the legislation did not make such an 'unreal requirement'. 'The union, as long as it complies with the legislation, is perfectly entitled to be partisan,' the judge said.

Newham received a further rebuff when it was refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords. But the council's leader, Stephen Timms, said he would apply directly to the Law Lords for the right to have the case heard.

The Appeal Court urged conciliation saying that the dispute had caused a lot of inconvenience to Newham residents and that all efforts should be made to find a negotiated settlement - particularly as the gap between the two sides was now very small.

But union officials said privately that after the victory it would be very difficult to keep members in work.

Alan Jinkinson, general secretary of Nalgo, said he had always been confident that the High Court ruling, which he described as an 'Alice in Wonderland' decision, would be overturned.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower