Saturday, November 16, 2019

Postal workers issue ‘call to arms’ after court bars workers from their right to strike

The Communication Workers' Union says the judgment is a ‘genuine outrage’

The Royal Courts of Justice
Photo: David Castor/Creative Commons

POSTAL workers issued a “call to arms” to the trade union movement today after a court barred workers from striking against the casualisation of the Royal Mail.
After a two-day hearing at the Royal Court of Justice, Mr Justice Swift ruled today in favour of a Royal Mail application to stop Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) members from going on strike.
The CWU sent out a brief tweet immediately after the ruling, saying: “Genuinely this is an utter outrage. 110,000 workers vs the establishment.”
Mr Justice Swift said the CWU’s actions amounted to “improper interference” with the vote on strike action.
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 in the workplace.
CWU members overwhelmingly supported taking action, with 97 per cent voting to strike on a turnout of 75 per cent.
It was one of the largest votes for industrial action in history and was only the third time that the threshold for national strike action set by the 2016 Trade Union Act was met.
The dispute is related to concerns amongst Royal Mail employees about the 2018 Four Pillars Agreement.
The agreement established a common understanding between workers and management over securing the future of the postal service, preserving decent pensions and working conditions and to move towards a 35-hour working week.
CWU members have expressed serious concerns that their management are not respecting the agreement and that a culture of bullying is being cultivated in depots and sorting offices across the country.
But Royal Mail claimed in court that the ballot was unlawful and has said that CWU officials “planned and orchestrated” breaches of industrial-relations law during the balloting process.
Royal Mail’s lawyers told the court that CWU officials and activists encouraged their members to intercept their ballot papers at work, vote immediately, then share footage and images of themselves sending off their votes on social media.
They also accused union officials of interfering with the ballot and alleged that there was a “de facto workplace ballot” — which would go against industrial actions law requiring that ballots must be cast in a worker’s home.
A Royal Mail statement admitted last week that it launched the challenge “because of the damage industrial action would do to the company and its customers in the run-up to Christmas.”
Following the result, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said that postal workers are “extremely angry” and “bitterly disappointed that one judge has granted Royal Mail an injunction to invalidate our ballot for strike action.”
Pointing out that not a single one of the 110,000 workers who were balloted complained to Royal Mail or independent scrutineers about the ballot, Mr Ward said: “This injunction is not only a massive injustice to our members — it’s also an injustice to every worker in the country.
“We all need to wake up and recognise that this Tory government has deliberately stacked the rules against workers in favour of the constituency they were born to serve — which is big business and the establishment.
“We appeal to the TUC and workers everywhere — in what is a call to arms — that it’s time for us to fundamentally shift the balance of forces in this country back to working people and remove these draconian laws once and for all.”
Mr Ward also told Royal Mail CEO Rico Back that this is not the end of the CWU’s fight, warning him: “You cannot face away from the reality that your victory in this court will be short-lived.
“You cannot face away from the reality that you have completely lost the confidence of the workforce and as a result there is no way you will ever be able to fully implement your plans for the future.”
He reassured CWU members that the union will be “doing everything” in its power to oppose both the decision and the company’s plans to casualise Royal Mail and will not only appeal the judgement but will launch a campaign against the company.
Royal Mail’s managing director of regulation and corporate affairs Shane O’Riordain said: “We are very pleased with the outcome today.”

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