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Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Friday, 2 April 2010 17:35 UK

Today accused of 'slurring' union over rail strike

John Humphrys and Bob Crow
Crow (r) was grilled by Humphrys (l) on Friday's edition of Today

Today presenter John Humphrys has been accused of "slurring" the RMT union in an interview with its leader Bob Crow about its ballot for industrial action.

The Radio 4 host said the High Court's decision to grant an injunction halting a four-day national rail strike "raises suspicions the ballot was rigged".

The Trade Union Coordinating Group said this was "a completely unsubstantiated allegation" and demanded a retraction.

The BBC said Humphrys had "put a pertinent question to Mr Crow".

A BBC spokesman said the RMT's general secretary had been "given ample opportunity to respond to [the question] and get his point of view across".

Network Rail was granted an injunction on Thursday after it alleged discrepancies in the RMT's ballot for industrial action.

It meant a four-day national strike over job cuts and working hours, due to start next Tuesday, could not go ahead.

During a discussion on Friday's Today programme, Mr Crow - the RMT's general secretary - said Humphrys had made a "serious accusation" in suggesting the ballot had not been conducted fairly.

Humphrys denied the charge, and reiterated his previous statement that the injunction granted to Network Rail had "raised suspicions".

He told Mr Crow: "The fact is the court decided it had not been fairly handled, fairly done the ballot, and had to be done again."

'Disgraceful'

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, the Trade Union Coordinating Group said the BBC was guilty of "an appalling slur".

"How can a ballot conducted by the Electoral Reform Society be rigged?" said Labour MP John McDonnell, the TUCG's Parliamentary Convenor.

"This was one of the most disgraceful biased performances of an interviewer and of the BBC itself in the history of the BBC and its treatment of trade unions.

"For an allegation of ballot rigging to be made on the Today Programme," he went on, "brings discredit on the whole of the BBC."

"We are demanding that a retraction is made by the BBC and an apology given and Mr Crow is given an opportunity to explain the RMT's case without this biased interference."

The Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG) comprises eight trade unions representing half a million members.

The RMT has pledged to re-ballot its members over the proposed industrial action, the first national rail strike since 1994.



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