Royal Mail wins High Court injunction to BLOCK postal strike
Judge BLOCKS Christmas postal strike because it could interfere with the General Election and blasts union for ‘subverting’ workers’ vote as Royal Mail wins landmark High Court battle
- Around 110,000 CWU-member postal workers voted to strike this Christmas
- But some could pick up ballots at work, which judge called ‘subversion’
- Judge also said that possible impact on election tipped it towards Royal Mai
- Union bosses were accused of timing the walk-out to hamper Tories and Brexit
- Postal voting is more common among elderly who make up half of Tory members
- Labour-backing RMT has ordered an unprecedented 27-day Christmas rail strike
Royal Mail today sensationally won a High Court injunction to block proposed strikes in the run up to the general election and before Christmas because the union ‘subverted’ the ballot process.
Senior judge Mr Justice Swift granted an injunction after agreeing that nationwide industrial action could hamper voters casting ballots by post before December 12 – and even swing results in some marginal constituencies.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU), whose members voted to back walkouts by 97 per cent on a turnout of 76 per cent, allowed postal workers to pick up their ballot paper from work rather than have it sent to their homes.
Royal Mail also produced social media posts showing that some broke the rules and filled them in at sorting offices or post offices during the working day and used the post box outside to send them back to CWU.
Mr Justice Swift said: ‘What the CWU did in this case was … a form of subversion of the ballot process.’
The union, which backs Labour, responded to the injunction by sending a series of tweets saying: ‘Genuinely this is an utter outrage. 110,000 workers vs the establishment. Judge just said that General Election is a factor in injunction. This is an absolute disgrace #WeRiseAgain’.
CWU will appeal and experts have said today’s ruling is unprecedented – but say that while the strike will be stopped, CWU can just call another ballot and do it again, this time within the law.
Royal Mail has won an injunction to block a planned strike by postal workers after a judge agreed the union ‘subverted’ the process by letting members pick up ballots at work and post them back
The result is a defeat for CWU general secretary Dave Ward (pictured with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2015)
The CWU union called the ruling an ‘utter outrage’ and fears over the election an ‘absolute disgrace’
Mr Justice Swift said the union’s actions did amount to ‘improper interference’ with the vote on strike action – and said the potential for strike action to affect the General Election tipped the balance in favour of granting an injunction.
The judge also said the potential for strike action to affect the General Election, because of possible delays to postal votes, tipped the balance in favour of granting an injunction.
He said: ‘What the CWU did in this case was … a form of subversion of the ballot process.’
The judge said the union ‘took advantage’ of members’ employment as postal workers to ‘encourage’ them to take their voting papers from work before they were delivered to their homes, and vote while at work.
He said the circumstances were ‘likely to be unique’ to industrial disputes between Royal Mail and its employees, because they can access their post at work.
Mr Justice Swift added: ‘In this case, in respect of the conduct of the General Election and the part played in that election by postal votes, there is a relevant wider public interest that is material to my conclusion that an injunction should be granted.’
Experts have said the ruling is unprecedented – but say that while the strike will be stopped, CWU can just call another ballot and do it again, this time within the law.
During a hearing on Tuesday, Royal Mail claimed the union orchestrated a ‘de facto workplace ballot’, contrary to rules on industrial action, to maximise the turnout and the ‘yes’ vote.
Labour has pledged to nationalise Royal Mail, and the CWU has given large amounts to the party
Conservative MPs have accused union chiefs of trying to thwart Mr Johnson’s pledge to ‘get Brexit done’
Many customers were unsympathetic to the proposed strike, saying the action would cause ‘chaos’
CWU lawyers argued there was no evidence of interference with the ballot and that ‘legitimate partisan campaigning’ by the union in favour of a ‘yes’ vote did not violate the rules.
The CWU balloted members over strike action amid a dispute between workers and management over job security and employment terms.
The union previously said the result of the ballot, which was open between September 24 and October 15, represented the largest ‘yes vote’ for national industrial action since the passing of the Trade Union Act 2016.
This could have caused chaos during the election campaign and before Christmas with mant
And the RMT has ordered an unprecedented 27-day rail strike over the festive period.
The two unions have donated almost £3.5million to Labour since 2015.
The Tories claimed these Christmas strikes are the taste of things to come of Labour is elected – with Mr Corbyn heralding a series of ‘winters of discontent’.
Last year strikes were at their sixth- lowest level since 1891 – but the Conservatives say the number of strikes could increase 15-fold.
The increase would occur because Labour has pledged to repeal many of the Tories’ trade union laws.
The party said that if Britain went back to strike levels seen in 1979, the year of the winter of discontent and before Mrs Thatcher brought in union reforms, there could be 5,950,126 involved in strikes.
It could see 37,923,880 days lost to industrial action at a cost of £9.5billion.
The worst year for industrial action since the General Strike of 1926 was 1979, when there were 2,125 strikes involving 4.6million workers and a total of 29.5million working days were lost.
Gary Clark (pictured), from the Communication Workers Union, boasted that Royal Mail staff would be accused of ‘stealing Brexit ‘ through their industrial action
That works out as 18.2 per cent of workers involved in strikes and around 1..16 days lost per working person, the Conservatives said.
Because there are now more people in work, the number of strike days lost would be higher if levels returned to 1979 levels, the party said.
Since Mr Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, the unions have donated almost £40million to Labour – amounting to nearly 80 per cent of all Labour’s donations.
Of this, £120,000 came from the RMT and £3.3million from the CWU.
Industrial relations at Royal Mail have worsened this year, with widespread unofficial strikes breaking out virtually every week.
Strikes in 2009 over job losses caused a backlog of more than 50million letters across a single weekend in October.
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