Elizabeth Hodgetts obtains High Court injunction to prevent strike action

Elizabeth Hodgetts
Written by:

Oliver Edwards


Elizabeth Hodgetts, instructed by Emma Appleton of East Riding of Yorkshire Council Legal Services, has successfully applied for an injunction against the National Education Union to prevent school staff from taking strike action on various days in the summer term. The application was heard by Bourne J on 24 April. The NEU was represented by Rebecca Tuck KC, leading Daisy van den Berg of Old Square Chambers.

The substantive issue was whether the ballot paper failed to comply with s. 229(2D) Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, in that the wording “further action will be taken … until the issues are resolved” did not indicate the period within which action was expected to take place within the meaning of the subsection. The NEU argued, first, that the subsection was sufficiently wide in scope that the wording did comply; second, that the Court was entitled to take into account extrinsic information available to NEU’s members in reading the ballot paper; third, that if there were non-compliance, it was de minimis; and fourth, that there was delay.

The Court upheld Elizabeth’s arguments that the meaning of the subsection was plain (and so unambiguous that there was no need to resort to Hansard); the ballot paper did not comply; NEU’s evidence had not shown that it was likely that the extrinsic information being relied upon had in fact come to the attention of the members in question; the failing was not de minimis but wholesale, as it affected all ballot papers; and there was no delay: the Council had raised the issue as soon as it became aware of it, and had put NEU on notice that if there were notification of further strike action, it would seek the injunction. His Lordship refused NEU’s application for permission to appeal.

Written by Oliver Edwards