TRANSPORT UNION RMT announced today that it is launching an unprecedented challenge to the UK’s anti-trade union laws in the European Court of Human Rights

Papers on behalf of RMT will be lodged with the European Court today by the union and its solicitors. RMT will argue on behalf of its members that its ability to organise industrial action to protect its members is restricted by UK law in a breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The union will be represented in the Court by RMT’s standing counsel John Hendy QC and Marcus Pilgerstorfer, instructed by Thompsons Solicitors.

The cases that RMT are challenging at European level are the EDF Energy court challenge and Hydrex dispute. These involved two groups of RMT members who balloted for industrial action last autumn – details of the cases in the editors notes below.

The RMT is putting forward arguments about two restrictions imposed by UK legislation in respect of the EDF and Hydrex cases which it says are incompatible with Article 11 of the Euopean Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. They are as follows:

1. the statutory requirement for the union to serve on an employer a notice which must fulfill onerous conditions such as providing the identification of the specific job descriptions of the intended voters; and

2. the absolute prohibition on unions organising solidarity industrial action (even where the secondary employer is closely associated with the primary employer in dispute).

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

The shackles that the anti-trade union laws have thrown around workers in this country seeking to take industrial action in defence of jobs and working conditions have got tighter and tighter in the past year and the EDF and Hydrex cases last autumn were pivotal with ramifications for the entire trade union movement.

RMT is in no doubt that the fundamental human right to withdraw labour has been systematically undermined. This is clearly shown by the EDF and Hydrex cases and we have no option but to take these matters to the European Court in a bid to protect the rights of our members and of working people in Britain.”


1. On 23 October 2009 EDF Energy Powerlink Limited was granted an injunction by the High Court against the RMT restraining members from taking industrial action. The grounds for this decision was that the notice of ballot had not sufficiently particularised the job descriptions of the members who were to be balloted. The consequence of this decision was that the union were denied the right to take strike action.

2. In August 2007 approximately 20 RMT members were transferred from Jarvis PLC to a company called Hydrex Equipment (UK) Limited. In September 2009 Hydrex sought to impose new terms and conditions on these members which were less favourable than those they had enjoyed when they worked for Jarvis PLC. The members organised industrial action, and the union wanted to call out its members at Jarvis PLC who had continued to work closely with the Hydrex members following the transfer. However UK law absolutely prohibits a trade union calling industrial action by members other than those employed by the employer directly in dispute. As a result the members at Jarvis PLC were denied the right to take strike action in solidarity, the members at Hydrex were denied the support of their colleagues and the union was denied the chance to take what would have been the most effective strike action for the purposes of protecting its members’ interests.

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