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Editorial: Class warfare by the Royal Court of Justice

THE ROYAL Court of Justice ruling in favour of Royal Mail’s bid to ban strike action that has the overwhelming support of its workforce exposes the judiciary’s determination to defend corporate power against any challenge from working people. It looks like class warfare by the courts.

The CWU’s assessment that the decision is an “utter outrage” is if anything an understatement. The ruling makes it clear that Britain’s anti-union laws make it virtually impossible to hold a legal national strike. 

The nightmarish obstacle course placed in front of workers trying to exercise their right to withdraw their labour is designed to guarantee their failure. And the removal in practice of this fundamental democratic right calls into question the idea that Britain is a free country.

Royal Mail argues that the CWU encouraged workers to intercept their ballot papers at work, vote immediately and share footage of themselves voting on social media and with colleagues.

This made it a “de facto workplace ballot.” It’s a disgrace of course that workplace balloting is illegal in the first place.

But to describe this as “a form of subversion of the ballot process” as Mr Justice Swift has done boils down to saying that the Yes vote was improper because the union recommending it then also campaigned for it.

The Tory government that — in an appallingly cynical piece of legislation that purported to be about combatting lobbying but in fact targeted trade unions and charities while leaving corporate lobbyists untouched — brought in the Trade Union Act 2016, imposing minimum thresholds so that strike ballots are invalid if fewer than 50 per cent of union members vote and demanding that 40 per cent of members (not of those voting) support strike action in certain sectors.

No such ballots apply to those standing for elected office, and the thresholds are an unashamed ploy to make strikes harder to stage by effectively treating non-participation as a vote against action.  

The law leads to perverse injustices such as the Civil Service union PCS being barred from holding a legal national strike over pay despite 85.6 per cent of ballots cast being in favour, because it fell marginally short of the 50 per cent participation rate.

Most working people are busy and a ballot that lands on the doormat is all too easily not noticed or forgotten about. Unions are now required to mobilise the entire workforce for action, no easy task in national ballots covering hundreds or thousands of workplaces.

The CWU’s campaign did exactly that. It was a massive exercise in industrial democracy. 

Postal workers held mass gate meetings and shared the news of their decision to vote to strike against Royal Mail’s bid to fragment the company, undermine their working conditions and the very future of a cohesive national postal service in our country.

The approach was key to enthusing Royal Mail’s workforce with the knowledge that they had the numbers and the power to mount a national strike, and they smashed through the fetters of the Trade Union Act with 97 per cent voting for strike action on a massive 75 per cent turnout.

As CWU leader Dave Ward points out, not one of 110,000 balloted workers raised any complaint about the process — yet judges have seen fit to tear up their mandate.

Royal Mail’s Switzerland-based boss Rico Back will hardly regain the trust and confidence of the workforce by trampling over their democratic decision with the connivance of the judicial arm of the state. 

He won’t care, because the future of the workforce and Royal Mail itself is a matter of indifference to the get-rich-quick spivs who seek to make a packet from asset-stripping our national institutions and scarpering when they collapse.

It’s incumbent on all of us to support our postal workers and their union in what is now a battle for democracy itself.


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