Royal Mail has launched a legal challenge against the Communication Workers Union (CWU)’s plans to strike, which the latter has decried as “cowardly and vicious”.
The carrier said there had been “potential irregularities in the ballot, which would render it unlawful”.
It said it had received evidence from at least 72 of its UK sites that several potential violations had occurred. The company said these included members being asked to intercept and remove their ballot papers from mail coming into their delivery offices before they were delivered to homes.
Royal Mail also claimed members had been instructed to vote yes on the ballot and been told to do so in groups. They also claimed that members had been encouraged to open their ballot papers on site, mark them with a yes and provide evidence of this.
Royal Mail said that it had made the application to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and “because of the damage industrial action would do to the company and its customers in the run-up to Christmas.”
Dave Ward, general secretary of the CWU, responded that the union “completely rejects all of Royal Mail’s claims”. He said the ballot was “totally democratic” and drew attention to the 97.1% vote for strike action on a 76% turnout.
He added that not a single member that had been balloted had complained to the company of interference in the ballot process.
“In defending our members and the union today,” he said, “we are also defending the democracy of workers everywhere and their right to take collective strike action.”
The dispute centres on the “Four Pillars” deal reached between the CWU and Royal Mail last year which included pay rises and reductions in working time. The CWU accuses Royal Mail of breaking this agreement.
According to the UK government’s website, a ballot is only effective for industrial action within six months, beginning with the date the ballot closes, which in this case was in October. This time limit can be extended to nine months if the union and employer agree.