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Postal workers’ union set to challenge High Court strike injunction

By Sian Harrison, PA

The trade union representing postal workers is set to challenge a High Court injunction to block potential strikes by members.

Mr Justice Swift granted Royal Mail an injunction to prevent members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) from taking industrial action in a dispute over job security and employment terms.

Giving his ruling in London on Wednesday, the judge said there was “improper interference” by the union with a strike ballot, because members had been encouraged to remove their voting papers from work before they were delivered to their home addresses.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said the injunction was a ‘massive injustice’ to members (Andrew Matthews/PA)

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said the union will do everything in its power to oppose the decision, including appealing against the judgment after guidance from its lawyers, re-balloting and launching a “huge leverage campaign” with major shareholders against the company’s actions.

Royal Mail said it was pleased with the outcome and was willing to enter talks with the union, provided it made a “binding commitment” that any strike action would not disrupt the snap General Election on December 12.

The company brought legal action against the union after members voted to back walkouts by 97% on a turnout of 76%.

The court heard members were encouraged by the CWU to remove their voting papers from work, vote immediately and then share images on social media of themselves returning their ballots via the nearest postbox.

Mr Justice Swift found that the union’s actions amounted to “improper interference” with the ballot and breached rules governing industrial 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 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.

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.

But he found the union did not breach the rules by encouraging members to vote early and to share their “mass postings” on social media.

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.

Speaking after the ruling, Mr Ward said: “We will be considering the judge’s detailed reasons for this but we want to make it clear that the only thing this union, its representatives and its members have done is to run a fantastic modern-day campaign to engage and encourage workers to defend their jobs.

“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.”

Shane O’Riordain, Royal Mail’s managing director of regulation and corporate affairs, said: “We are very pleased with the outcome today.

“We wish it had never come to court, we asked to resolve this with the CWU without resorting to court action, but we are pleased with the outcome.”

He added: “We also want to say now to the CWU that our offer, to get onto the table and to talk about issues on the basis of a binding commitment from the union that there will not be industrial action in the run-up to a general election, that remains in place.”