Royal Mail applies for high court injunction to try to stop strike

Company claims there were ‘potential irregularities’ in ballot of CWU members

Royal Mail is seeking an injunction to block a potential strike by postal workers in the run-up to the general election and Christmas.

The company, which lodged an application at the high court, claimed there were “potential irregularities” in the ballot of Communication Workers Union (CWU) members over industrial action that could mean the recent vote was unlawful. It has also contacted the industry regulator, Ofcom, about its concerns.

Royal Mail said it was particularly concerned by the threat of disruption to postal voting before the election. However, the CWU has yet to set strike dates.

“The company is making this high court application because the integrity and legal soundness of any electoral process is vital. This is particularly the case in relation to potential industrial action around the general election on 12 December 2019,” Royal Mail said on Friday.

“Royal Mail is also making this application because of the damage industrial action would do to the company and its customers in the run-up to Christmas.”

Royal Mail will argue at the high court hearing on Tuesday next week that CWU officials broke the rules for a postal ballot of the union’s members, which stipulate the process should take place in the privacy of their own homes without interference by the union.

However, Royal Mail said it has evidence members were being instructed to open their ballot papers at their delivery offices and encouraged to cast their votes in favour of a strike while in groups.

Workers were also persuaded to be filmed while casting their votes before posting ballots together at their workplace postboxes, it claimed. A spokesman declined to comment on whether Royal Mail had photographic or video evidence.

“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,” the company said.

CWU workers last month backed industrial action by 97% on a turnout of almost 76%. The vote could lead to the first national postal strike in a decade. The union said Royal Mail had breached an agreement put forward last year that included plans to reduce the working week.

The CWU said it “completely rejects and denies” Royal Mail’s claim.

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The union’s 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.”

Ward also accused Royal Mail of refusing to engage in any meaningful discussions over its plans.

Royal Mail on Friday said it will enter discussions if the CWU provides a binding commitment not to strike for the remainder of 2019, citing the need to deliver postal votes for the general election.

Relations between the CWU and Royal Mail have deteriorated in recent months over the implementation of an agreement on pay, pensions and working conditions reached in February 2018.

The arrival of Royal Mail chief executive Rico Back, who succeeded Moya Greene in June 2018, has also contributed to worsening relations, the CWU said in August. In July 2018, Royal Mail shareholders revolted against Back’s pay package, which included a £5.8m golden hello.


Kalyeena Makortoff

The GuardianTramp

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