Royal Mail has announced a legal battle to stop its workers going on strike in the run-up to Christmas, urging the High Court to rule the industrial action is “unlawful.”
The company (RMG.L) said it had submitted evidence that union officials had “planned and orchestrated breaches of their legal obligations” in how they balloted for the first nationwide postal strike in a decade.
But the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) said they “clearly refute” the claims, after its members voted for a national strike last month in a row over pensions. No date had yet been set for action.
The walkout would spark a major headache for the company and the public at one of the busiest periods of the year, with fears over Christmas and election postal vote deliveries.
The legal battle comes after the CWU on Monday rejected Royal Mail’s offer of talks without conditions if it dropped the threat of industrial action.
Shares in Royal Mail, which was privatised four years ago, dipped in early trading on Friday morning, down 1.6% at 8.15am.
Royal Mail said in a statement on Friday that evidence included union members “being instructed to vote "yes" and being encouraged to do so in groups” in the ballot, which saw 97% support action.
It claimed workers were also encouraged to “intercept” and open ballot papers at their delivery offices rather than their homes before voting and posting them back “with their colleagues present and filming or photographing them.”
Royal Mail is seeking an interim order from the court to block any CWU action until it has conducted a lawful ballot, on the basis the alleged issues with the recent vote make it “null and void.”
“The company believes there are potential irregularities in the ballot, which would render it unlawful,” it said.
The CWU responded on Twitter: “Royal Mail have made an application to take us to the High Court. They claim there are irregularities with our ballot.
“We clearly refute this and will be represented. A hearing will possibly be on Tuesday. We will comment further shortly but RT if you support your postal worker.”
The dispute is over union claims that the company had failed to honour an agreement reached last year after 10 months of negotiations on pensions, pay, working hours and other issues. Royal Mail has said it honoured the deal.
The postal company had been pushing to cut costs by closing its generous defined-benefit pension scheme, which is based on a proportion of workers’ final salaries rather than the amount of employer and employee contributions.