Royal Mail has won its High Court battle to secure an injunction against the Communications Workers Union ballot that could have resulted in widespread postal chaos in the run up to both Christmas and the General Election.
In the hearing, which started yesterday, Royal Mail had argued that trade union officials had “consciously and deliberately” interfered with a ballot of postal workers over potential strikes.
The CWU balloted members over strike action between September 24 and October 15 in a dispute over job security and employment terms and conditions, backing action by 97% in a turnout of almost 76%.
The union claimed the result represented the largest “yes” vote for national industrial action since the passing of the Trade Union Act 2016.
However, Royal Mail’s lawyers told the High Court hearing that evidence collected from around the UK suggested the CWU encouraged members to intercept their ballot papers at work, vote immediately, then share images of themselves on social media returning the papers using the nearest post box.
Bruce Carr QC, for Royal Mail, told the court: “What the defendant has done is consciously and deliberately interfered in the balloting process in order to achieve maximum turnout and a maximum yes vote.
“In its desire to maximise voter turnout and a substantial yes vote for strike action, the (CWU) has ridden roughshod over the requirement for a secret ballot based on the delivery of voting papers to the home addresses of its members.
“From the evidence which the claimant has obtained to date, there is a strong inference that senior officials within the defendant devised and implemented a plan designed to create a de facto workplace ballot – with members being directed to intercept ballot papers at work, vote collectively and then post the results of the exercise on social media outlets.
“The evidence of this widespread malpractice gathered to date is drawn from all corners of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and may well represent the tip of the iceberg.”
But CWU lawyers had 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.
Lord Hendy QC, representing the union, said: “There is nothing objectionable about photographing or filming members placing their sealed envelopes in a post box.”
The CWU responded to today’s decision in a tweet: “The High Court has ruled against us. Genuinely this is an utter outrage. 110,000 workers vs the establishment.”
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