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  • Published in Investigations

The judge who imposed a court injunction against the RMT banning strike action at Network Rail has close family ties with Goldman Sachs - one of the transport firm’s principle dealers.

High Court Protest

Mrs Justice Sharp is the sister of Richard Sharp who until recently ran Goldman Sachs' European private equity fund. Goldman Sachs is a principle dealer for Network Rail's £34 billion Debt Issuance Programme.

The Sauce is not suggesting impropriety or conflict of interest in the court case but merely commenting on the closeness of the British judicial system to major corporate interests - a relationship which deserves greater scrutiny when strike action is barred by the High Court.

Dame Victoria Madeleine Sharp imposed a temporary order on the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union strike despite a 54 percent vote among signal workers because of technical inaccuracies and discrepancies in the ballot records.

The ruling moved TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, to say: 'It's becoming increasingly easy for employers, unhappy at the prospect of a dispute, to rely on the courts to intervene and nullify a democratic ballot for industrial action on a mere technicality.”

The judge's brother Richard was until his resignation one of the longest serving partners in the UK for Goldman Sachs with an estimated personal wealth in 2004 of £125m - mostly shares in the firm - and annual bonuses of between £5m and £10m, according to reports.

Goldman Sachs is named on the Network Rail website as dealers for both the £30 billion Multicurrency Note Programme and £4 billion Commercial Paper Programme. There is no suggestion by The Sauce that Sharp was involved in either programme.

Sharp left the firm after he “found [himself] in the spotlight” following a series of hostile deals that were later attacked by then Goldman chief executive Hank Paulson. Among such deals was an offer of £800m to finance Philip Green's attempted takeover of Marks and Spencer.

Union members' rightsMr Sharp Junior also has close connections with the Conservative party: Boris Johnson announced with great fanfare during the London elections that Sharp would be appointed a senior advisor for the Mayor's Fund.

Dame Victoria Sharp's life will be unfamiliar to many of the Network Rail workers who have been told their democratic ballot for strike action is invalid because of a legal technicality: she was educated at the independent North London Collegiate School, became a QC and took her seat at the High Court under Labour in 2009.

The judge is the daughter of Lord (Eric) Sharp of Stanmore in the London Borough of Harrow who was a confidant of Margaret Thatcher and was handpicked by her Conservative government in the 1980s to privatise Cable and Wireless.

Lord Sharp, who died in May 1994, was chair of Monsanto - today famous for genetically modified crops - until approached by Conservative Secretary of State for Industry Sir Keith Joseph to steer the groundbreaking telecoms privatisation.

The ruling by Mrs Justice Sharp is just the latest from the High Court imposed through the strictest interpretation of the 1992 Trade Union Act which demands accurate records of balloted union members are presented to the company.

The same part of the act was used by Mrs Justice Cox to prevent the British Airways cabin staff from striking over Christmas last year.

Dame Laura Mary Cox was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by human rights group Justice - and would therefore have been aware of a ruling from Europe (Demir and Baykara v Turkey) that suggests such injunctions may undermine union members' rights to collective bargaining.

Professor Gregor Gall, an industrial relations expert at the University of Hertfordshire, has calculated that the number of injunctions under this part of the act trebled during 2009. There have been concerns raised that the courts are being used to prevent strikes in the lead up to the general election.

Article first published on The Sauce

Tagged under: Trade Union Strike
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