Court halts impending industrial action at Royal Mail

Jo Francis
Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Royal Mail has won its High Court bid to have the CWU ballot for industrial action declared unlawful, while the union’s general secretary Dave Ward has described the judge’s decision as “farcical” and has vowed to fight on.

The interim injunction handed down by the court today (13 November) means that no industrial action can be taken before the completion of a “lawful ballot”.

Speaking outside the court after the verdict, Ward said: “We’re extremely angry and bitterly disappointed at the decision and I’m sure our members and reps all feel the same way. It’s difficult to see the judge’s decision as anything other than farcical,” he said.

He said the evidence in court from Royal Mail came from “a senior manager being able to give evidence that somehow we’ve interfered with a ballot”.

“We have 110,000 members been balloted. Not a single employee has given evidence to back the Royal Mail’s case. Not a single person has gone to the independent scrutineer to complain."

He also said that "nobody, not a single person" had complained to the regulator put in place by the government to regulate trade unions.

The CWU is now talking to its lawyers about an appeal. “It’s inevitable at some point we will re-ballot,” Ward added.

In a statement, Shane O’Riordain, managing director of regulation and corporate affairs at Royal Mail, said: “We did not take the decision to go to the High Court lightly. We sought to reach resolution outside the courts. We asked CWU to confirm it would refrain from taking industrial action, based on clear evidence of planned and orchestrated breaches by CWU officials of their legal obligations. CWU declined to do so, and we then had no option but to resort to legal action.

“It is vital that our colleagues are able to vote without any constraint imposed on them by any other party. The trade union legislation is designed to safeguard democratic integrity by ensuring union members can vote in the privacy of their own homes, rather than in any public process. We are writing to the CWU to ask it to undertake a full internal review of its processes.

“We stand ready to engage with the CWU. If the union provides a binding commitment to remove the threat of strike action for the rest of 2019, we will enter into discussions without preconditions. A binding commitment from the CWU to remove the threat of strike action during the period of any general election is vital.”

Terry Pullinger, CWU deputy general secretary (postal), also speaking outside the court said he was “shaking with rage” and that the upcoming General Election on 12 December had been a factor in the judge’s decision.

“Pressure has been put on [the court] because of the General Election. Royal Mail has deliberately put that in the judge’s mind. Under Rico Back [Royal Mail CEO] they are destroying the very soul of the great British postal service,” he said.

The likelihood that Royal Mail workers could choose to work to rule appears increasingly likely, with many taking to social media to suggest that course of action as a way for employees to demonstrate their frustration with the situation.

The High Court action did not include Parcelforce Worldwide, which is the subject of separate ballot notices.

A number of printers expressed relief that business would not be disrupted.

Lance Hill, managing director at Eight Days a Week Print Solutions in Nottingham, said: "Industrial action would be damaging for Royal Mail and staff. They are far better to negotiate and come up with the right solution. 

"I think Moya Greene [the previous Royal Mail CEO] is definitely missed. She was the best CEO they had and knew how to handle the unions and do a deal."

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