Royal Mail seeks injunction to stop postal strike

Richard Stuart-Turner
Friday, November 8, 2019

Royal Mail is seeking an injunction to stop a strike by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) over job security and employment conditions, citing “potential irregularities” in the ballot of its members that could render the vote unlawful.

The postal service will today (8 November) make an application to the High Court for an interim order to injunct CWU with respect to its recent postal ballot of Royal Mail employees for industrial action.

It said the ballot was unlawful and, therefore, null and void and that it is making the application “because the integrity and legal soundness of any electoral process is vital”, particularly the case in relation to potential industrial action around the general election on 12 December, and “the damage industrial action would do to the company and its customers in the run-up to Christmas”.

Royal Mail’s application will argue that CWU officials broke the rules for a postal ballot of the union’s members, which say that the process should take place at their home address, or any other address that they have requested the union to treat as their postal address, and that they must be allowed to vote without interference by the union.

The company said it has “supplied substantial evidence” to the High Court that some of its members were being instructed to intercept and remove their ballot papers from mail coming into their delivery offices before they were delivered to their homes, and that they were encouraged to cast their votes in favour of a strike while in groups.

It also said workers were being encouraged to open their ballot papers on site, mark them as ‘yes’, with their colleagues present and filming or photographing them doing so, before posting their ballots together at their workplace postboxes.

“Royal Mail’s procedures make it clear that employees cannot open their mail at the delivery office without the prior authorisation of their manager. Alongside our application for an injunction, we will review whether any further action is required. We have also informed Ofcom,” the company said in a statement.

Royal Mail is asking that, until CWU has conducted “a lawful ballot”, which results in a vote in favour of industrial action, it will not be able to serve notice of any action on Royal Mail.

The company expects its application, which does not apply to employees within Parcelforce Worldwide who are the subject of separate ballot notices, to be heard in the High Court in the week commencing 11 November.

The vast majority (97.1%) of around 110,000 voters backed strike action from a 76% turnout of the CWU’s members earlier last month.

CWU said it “completely rejects and denies” Royal Mail’s claim “in the strongest terms” and will contest the claim at the High Court hearing.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “It will be clear to all our members and everybody connected with Royal Mail and this dispute that the CEO and his board will go to any lengths to deny the democratic mandate of our members to stand together and fight for their future and the very future of the UK postal services.

“Instead, the company are pressing on regardless with their asset-stripping plans to set up a separate parcels business and let thousands upon thousands of jobs wither on the vine.

“At the same time, the company refuses to engage in any meaningful discussions on their plans. We have made it clear that the union is available, including through the weekend, to meet Royal Mail anytime.”

Strikes at Royal Mail were averted last year after the postal service agreed to increase pay, reform pensions and reduce weekly working hours from 39 to 35 by 2022, subject to productivity improvements, but CWU said the agreement is not being honoured by the company’s new leadership.

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