Two unions have won court appeals over strikes at rail companies which officials said would pave the way for millions of workers to take industrial action.
The Court of Appeal allowed appeals by the drivers union Aslef and the Rail Maritime and Transport union, which both had planned industrial action blocked in recent weeks by legal challenges.
Aslef had been due to hold a strike at London Midland before Christmas in a row over pay and conditions, while the RMT was due to take industrial action at Docklands Light Railway in London in January in a separate dispute over pensions and redundancies.
Keith Norman, Aslef’s general secretary, said the court’s decision was a “major step for industrial freedom”, adding: “Trade unionists once again have the same human rights as any other citizen.”
Unions have lost a string of legal challenges to strikes over the past 18 months. The RMT said it was a “major victory” that will pave the way for millions of workers to take action in the coming months over cuts to jobs and services.
Aslef said the High Court granted an injunction to London Midland in December after the union “accidentally” gave voting papers to two members it was not intending to call out on strike.
More than 600 workers were balloted and there was an 80% vote in favour of strikes. The Court of Appeal said the law should have applied provisions on “small accidental failures”.
Mr Norman said: “Before today’s ruling it was effectively impossible to take legal strike action in this county. If the employer could find the tiniest discrepancy, the courts would find in the employer’s favour. Thanks to today’s decision, a sense of justice and balance has been returned to industrial relations.”
The RMT said the decision to grant its appeal in the Docklands Light Railway (Serco Docklands) case had “massive implications” for ongoing disputes, including on Arriva Trains Wales and London Underground.
General secretary Bob Crow said: “This morning’s judgment is not only a victory for staff on Serco Docklands and RMT’s 80,000 members, but it is also a massive victory for the seven million trade unionists in the UK.”