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Royal Mail wins respite from CWU peak period strike after legal challenge

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The High Court has ruled that a strike ballot by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) was unlawful, potentially preventing the union from striking during the build-up to Christmas.

Although the High Court has not yet published full details of its decision, it has ruled in favour of Royal Mail’s submission to the court which claimed there had been potential irregularities in the ballot in favour of strike action in October 2019.

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 added that members had been encouraged to open their ballot papers on site, mark them with a yes and provide evidence of this.

In light of the result, Royal Mail said it was willing to enter into discussions with the CWU if it offered a binding commitment to remove the threat of strike action for the rest of 2019.

Shane O’Riordain, Royal Mail’s managing director of regulation and corporate affairs, said: “We did not take the decision to go to the High Court lightly. We sought to reach resolution outside the courts. We asked CWU to confirm it would refrain from taking industrial action, based on clear evidence of planned and orchestrated breaches by CWU officials of their legal obligations. CWU declined to do so, and we then had no option but to resort to legal action.

“It is vital that our colleagues are able to vote without any constraint imposed on them by any other party. The trade union legislation is designed to safeguard democratic integrity by ensuring union members can vote in the privacy of their own homes, rather than in any public process. We are writing to the CWU to ask it to undertake a full internal review of its processes.

The CWU has confirmed it will appeal the decision.

“The High Court has ruled against us,” it said via its Twitter feed. “Genuinely this is an utter outrage. 110,000 workers vs the establishment.”