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Royal Mail wins High Court bid to stop strike disrupting Christmas post

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
Royal Mail vans lined up at London's largest sorting office Mount Pleasant, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The U.K. coalition government has confirmed plans to privatize the country's 500-year-old Royal Mail this fall. Business Secretary Vince Cable said Thursday an initial public offering of a majority stake in the postal service was scheduled for the coming weeks. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Royal Mail won a high court bid to stop a strike. Photo: AP Photo/Alastair Grant

Royal Mail has won a High Court bid to block a strike by postal workers that threatened to disrupt Christmas deliveries and postal votes.

Judges granted Royal Mail an injunction because of issues with a union’s handling of a recent ‘yes’ vote for strike action in a longstanding row over pensions, pay and hours.

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) said the ruling was an “utter outrage,” after it balloted tens of thousands of postal workers last month.

It had not announced a date for any action but secured 97% backing among those who voted for a walkout, which reportedly would have been the first national postal strike in a decade.

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Lawyers for the state-owned company (RMG.L) argued the union had co-ordinated a “de facto workplace ballot” to improve turnout and secure a ‘yes’ vote to strike action, in breach of the rules.

Royal Mail also said in a statement last week it had evidence that union officials “planned and orchestrated breaches of their legal obligations.”

It claimed union members were instructed to vote ‘yes,’ and “encouraged to do so in groups.”

It also alleged workers were encouraged to “intercept” and open ballot papers en route to their homes, before voting and posting them back “with their colleagues present and filming or photographing them.”

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The CWU has said previously they “clearly refute” the claims, and tweeted after the ruling: “The High Court has ruled against us. Genuinely this is an utter outrage. 110,000 workers vs the establishment.”

Its lawyers argued in court there was no evidence of interference with the ballot, and that its “legitimate partisan campaigning” in favour of a ‘yes’ vote did not breach the rules.

The strike would have sparked huge problems for the company and the public at one of the busiest periods of the year, with fears over Christmas and election postal vote deliveries. It had said it would prioritise postal ballot papers.

The dispute is over union claims that the company failed to honour an agreement reached last year over pensions, pay, working hours and other issues. Royal Mail has said it honoured the deal.