06:56, November 08 250 0 theguardian.com

2019-11-08 06:56:03
Royal Mail applies for high court injunction to try to stop strike

Royal Mail is making an application to the high court to try to block workers from staging a strike over job security and employment conditions that it says risks having an impact on the UK’s general election.

The company claims 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 communications regulator, Ofcom, about its concerns.

“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 in a stock market announcement 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.”

The application will argue 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 says 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. It says workers were also persuaded to be filmed while casting their votes, before posting 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,” the company said.

CWU workers last month backed industrial action by 97% on a turnout of almost 76%. The vote could potentially 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, which it plans to challenge during the high court hearing on 12 November.

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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.