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POSTAL WORKERS have vowed to fight a “desperate and sinister move” by Royal Mail to invalidate a strike ballot overwhelmingly supported by postal workers.
Royal Mail bosses are seeking an injunction to block the planned strike, which could disrupt Christmas post as well as postal voting in the run-up to the general election.
The company sought an interim order in the High Court against the Communication Workers Union (CWU), claiming there are “potential irregularities in the ballot” making the vote unlawful.
Royal Mail said: “The company is making this High Court application because the integrity and legal soundness of any electoral process is vital.
“This is particularly the case in relation to potential industrial action around the general election on December 12 2019.
“Royal Mail is also making this application because of the damage industrial action would do to the company and its customers in the run-up to Christmas.”
The company argues that CWU officials broke postal balloting rules by allowing people to vote in the workplace, and by encouraging people to film themselves casting their vote.
Royal Mail claims this breaks the anti-union Trade Union Act 2016, which states that voting on industrial disputes should take place without active interference by a union.
Last month, the union voted 97 per cent in favour of a nationwide strike in defence of the 2018 “Four Pillars” agreement, which focuses on protecting pensions, extending all working condition agreements, guaranteeing a long-term future for the Royal Mail and ensuring a negotiated 35-hour working week for employees.
A CWU spokesman said: “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. This is nothing but a desperate and sinister move.”
Industrial relations at the company have worsened this year, with unofficial strikes breaking out virtually every week.
The CWU previously said the result of the ballot, which was open between September 24 and October 15, represents the largest Yes vote for national industrial action since the passing of the Trade Union Act 2016.
Unions claimed up to 50,000 jobs were at risk at Royal Mail, as well as at Parcelforce under plans to separate it from the postal business.
Royal Mail said: “The company believes the evidence demonstrates that CWU officials, including co-ordination and direction at a senior level, have planned and orchestrated breaches of their legal obligations.”
Bosses have found “at least 72” UK sites where staff were being asked to intercept and remove their ballot papers from mail coming into their delivery offices, before they were delivered to their homes.
The company added it had evidence of workers “being instructed to vote ‘yes’ and being encouraged to do so in groups; and being encouraged to open their ballot papers on site, mark them as ‘yes,’ with their colleagues present and filming or photographing them doing so, before posting their ballots together at their workplace postboxes.”
Royal Mail’s procedures state employees cannot open their mail at delivery offices without the prior authorisation of their manager.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “It will be clear to all our members and everybody connected with Royal Mail and this dispute, that the chief executive and his board will go to any lengths to deny the democratic mandate of our members to stand together and fight for their future and the very future of UK postal services.
“Instead the company are pressing on regardless with their asset-stripping plans to set up a separate parcels business and let thousands upon thousands of jobs wither on the vine.
“At the same time, the company refuses to engage in any meaningful discussions on their plans. We have made it clear that the union is available, including through the weekend, to meet Royal Mail anytime.”
A High Court hearing is expected to be heard on Tuesday November 12.
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