Royal Mail PLC (LON:RMG) has applied for a High Court injunction to prevent its workers going on strike, saying it believes the union ballot was “unlawful” and that the process could “damage” the company.
The Communication Workers Union’s ballot of members who work for Royal Mail saw 97.1% vote in favour of a first strike in a decade in a dispute over last year's deal on pay, pensions and working hours, with separate ballots for CWU members in Parcelforce Worldwide gaining 95% support.
Royal Mail said in a statement on Friday that it thinks there were “potential irregularities” in the ballot, adding that it has sent the “clear evidence” to the CWU that there had been breaches of trade unions regulations and requested a calling off of the strike.
The parcels and letters group said breaches of the regulations included union members being instructed to vote in favour “and being encouraged to do so in groups” and members 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”.
Members, the company claimed, were asked by the union to “intercept” their ballot papers from mail coming into their delivery offices, arguing that under postal rules employees “cannot open their mail at the delivery office without the prior authorisation of their manager”.
The court application was being made, the FTSE 250-listed company added, “because of the damage industrial action would do to the company and its customers in the run-up to Christmas” and the general election on 12 December.
Union rejects claims
The CWU issued a quick rejection and denied the claims, saying it will contest the claim at a High Court hearing on Tuesday, 12 November.
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 CEO 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.”
Ward said the union was available to meet Royal Mail management “anytime”, including this weekend.
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— The CWU (@CWUnews) November 8, 2019
A hearing will possibly be on Tuesday
We will comment further shortly but RT if you support your postal worker
Because employers would rather find a legal route to prevent industrial action than invest time in solving issues that prompt workers to take industrial action. Solidarity with @DaveWardGS & friends in the @CWUnews. https://t.co/V4mqffGhD2— Jo Grady (@DrJoGrady) November 8, 2019
Shares in Royal Mail fell more than 1% in early trading on Friday but flattened off at 223.2p.
-- Adds share price and full CWU comment --