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Why Royal Mail wants High Court injunction to block postal strike

09 Nov 2019, 09:51 ... n-17225286

Royal Mail claims a vote in favour of strike action was undertaken unlawfully

Royal Mail bosses are seeking a court injunction that could block a planned postal workers' strike.

The planned strike sparked concerns over disruption to postal voting in the upcoming election and the Christmas post.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action over job security concerns - but Royal Mail claim the vote was unlawful due to "irregularities in the ballot".

Royal Mail will go to London's High Court on Friday for an interim order against the union in a bid to block a walkout, which it says could damage the company in the run up to Christmas.

A spokesperson for the company said: "The company is making this High Court application because the integrity and legal soundness of any electoral process is vital.

There are fears a strike will affect the December general election as well as the Christmas post (Image: PA)
"This is particularly the case in relation to potential industrial action around the General Election on 12 December 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 CWU described the Royal Mail's decision to take the union to court as "desperate and sinister" and refuted claims that the vote was unlawful.

Last month, members of the CWU backed action by 97 per cent in a turnout of almost 75 per cent.

But Royal Mail said it believes union officials "planned and orchestrated breaches of their legal obligations" by allegedly asking staff to remove their ballot papers from mail coming into their delivery offices, before they were delivered to their homes.

The company said it had evidence of workers "being instructed to vote 'yes' and being encouraged to do so in groups.

They also claimed workers were encouraged to open their ballot papers on site and 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.

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.

A CWU spokesperson told the PA news agency: "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."

UK’s Royal Mail seeks legal action to prevent postal strike

09 Nov 2019, 17:46 ... a-n09.html
By Robert Stevens

9 November 2019

Royal Mail Group (RMG) has made an application to the High Court to prevent a strike by postal workers. The hearing is expected Tuesday, with Royal Mail claiming there were “potential irregularities” in the ballot by the Communication Workers Union (CWU). It wants the ballot ruled “unlawful and, therefore, null and void.”
Last month, over 110,000 postal workers returned a record 97 percent strike vote in defence of jobs, working conditions and the postal services. Parcelforce members also delivered a 95 percent strike vote across two separate ballots. The turnout in the ballot was 76 percent.

The company is seeking to have the ballot ruled illegal on the spurious basis that postal workers were “being encouraged [by the CWU] 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.”

RMG claimed it had submitted “substantial evidence” to the High Court from at least 72 of its sites where this occurred.

The firm issued a statement Friday declaring “until CWU has conducted a lawful ballot, which results in a vote in favour of industrial action, it will not be able to serve notice of any action on Royal Mail.”
As part of a resurgence of working class struggle internationally, the Royal Mail strike ballot was followed by tens of thousands of higher education staff who voted to strike in defence of pay, conditions and pensions. Strikes are ongoing or are to take place among other education workers and those employed in the health sector and on the rail network.
The legal case is just part of Royal Mail’s efforts to defeat a struggle by over 100,000 workers. It is also recruiting a scab labour force. Following the ballot result, postal workers discovered that Royal Mail had placed adverts for more than 6,000 jobs at sorting offices and depots nationwide. These are advertised as temporary jobs for delivery drivers and warehouse operatives and are separate from the thousands of casual staff recruited every year during the Christmas holiday season to deal with the huge increase in mail and parcel volumes.

Royal Mail is putting forward war plans under which it intends to impose conditions that are now widespread throughout the “gig economy.” Its eCourier subsidiary—a same-day delivery company based in London—classifies its workers as “independent contractors.” They have no set pay or hours, receive no holiday or sick pay and are not enrolled in a pension scheme. Last month, eCourier members of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain walked off the job for two days to demand recognition as full employees, to be paid the London Living Wage and for the company to enter into a collective bargaining agreement.
Royal Mail moved to legal action against the CWU after offering discussions “without preconditions”—provided, that is, the union gave a “binding commitment” to remove the threat of walkouts over the festive season! Under legislation governing industrial disputes, the mandate for a strike following a successful ballot lasts for six months.

The CWU was fully prepared to meet to discuss these issues, but said the timescale for negotiations was too narrow. “[Royal Mail] refused to meet last week and offered just 4 hours today,” the union complained.
The CWU was forced to rebuff these overtures as the union faces militant opposition among postal workers. This sentiment was represented in both the overwhelming strike vote and a series of unofficial strikes over the last year against management demanded speedups, bullying and racism.

CWU officials have done everything possible to avert industrial action since the ballot result was announced. They were in mediation talks for weeks before the strike vote result was known and continued talks afterwards. By the end of October, there had been seven weeks of talks. Even under the strict anti-union laws, it could have called off mediation talks on the day of the ballot and given the company 14 days’ notice of its intention to strike. Instead, CWU General Secretary Dave Ward announced that the union would not call strikes but instead “speak to those individual shareholders and explain to them there’s a better role for postal workers going forward that can make this company very successful.”
The main aim of the CWU has been to use workers as a bargaining chip to preserve what they term the “progressive” Four Pillars Agreement (FPA)—which was the stated aim of the strike ballot. The FPA, signed in 2018, was a sellout and included an inferior pension scheme, reduction in working hours in return for productivity boosts through alterations to delivery routes, new duty patterns, new working practices and greater use of technology, including PDA (personal digital assistant) devices to monitor performance. But even this is not enough for Royal Mail. Under conditions of mounting global competition in the parcel delivery market, it is seeking changes to the deal centred on productivity hikes of up to 18 percent.

The CWU is doing nothing to alert its members to the gravity of the situation. Workers are in a war against Royal Mail and involved in a political struggle against the capitalist state, its government, courts and police.
Terry Pullinger, the union’s deputy general secretary, said earlier this week, “I don’t think there is absolutely any doubt whatsoever that we will be giving [the company] notice and we will be taking industrial action through the build-up to Christmas and through the period up to the general election,” with the possibility of industrial action on Black Friday (November 29) and Cyber Monday (December 2) “in the mix.”

But all such talk was shelved by Friday. The union insisted it only wanted more negotiations and would be willing to hold talks this weekend. Interviewed by Sky News on Friday, Ward said, “We’re not people who want to disrupt the general election. We’re not people who want to disrupt Christmas… We didn’t call this on… we don’t actually want a strike, we want an agreement where the company will get back what they previously agreed.”

The CWU is working hand in glove with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to ensure that no widespread action takes place. Their greatest fear is that under conditions of a general election, with millions of workers prepared to fight to end the relentless assault on their social position, Corbyn could come to power on a wave of uncontrollable workers’ struggles.

Asked if he would call off the dispute if asked to by Corbyn, Ward replied, “I’m not here to represent the Labour Party. I’m here to represent postal workers. We haven’t even announced strike action yet. We’ve been going through a process of mediation. We’ve been trying to get the company to come to their senses.”

The CWU will hold an executive meeting next Wednesday, the day after the High Court hearing. There should be no doubt the union would call off any strike that was ruled illegal.

The central issue facing postal workers is to take the struggle out of the hands of the CWU and form rank-and-file committees of action, independent of the union. Workers cannot wait until the court pronounces its verdict on whether they can strike. Walkouts must be organised immediately and linked up with other workers throughout the delivery and communication industry and with all other employees fighting back against the onslaught of the ruling elite.

Royal Mail blocks talks after historic strike vote

09 Nov 2019, 20:41 ... rike-vote/

Despite a historic 97.1 per cent vote for strike action by Royal Mail workers in the CWU union, and 95 per cent in Parcelforce, postal bosses have locked the union leaders into weeks of mediation before we can strike. Royal Mail’s new five-year plan aims to carve up the company and restructure it into a parcels company, while cutting up to 40,000 jobs, busting the union and spelling the end of the postal service.

But while workers have been forced to put action on hold, management haven’t been idle. Pretending to talk (see box), they have been preparing to undermine the coming strike. Their coming counterattack makes building rank and file organisation even more urgently needed to ensure we can win.

Royal Mail dirty tricks
First in Bootle posties went back to work after a seven-day unofficial walkout against a racist comment by management. Royal Mail got a court injunction and management bussed in strike-breakers with police support – it is unclear whether these were agency staff or managers from other offices and areas (scabbing is part of their job description!).

Immediately after the ballot result was announced on 15 October, Royal Mail got busy. Thousands of adverts for 11am-7pm parcel drivers were advertised across the country, without informing the union, and distinct from ads clearly marked Christmas temporary work (Royal Mail takes on thousands of casuals on at Christmas every year). Clearly they are preparing a scab operation that could keep going as the new afternoon parcels delivery workforce it is pushing for, in order to gut letter deliveries – one of the key issues of the dispute.

Then on 30 October Parcelforce wrote to employees being forcibly TUPE’d over into a separate company from Royal Mail, again at the heart of the dispute. In the letter, they threaten workers with the sack if they don’t sign the new contracts.

Both cases show that the company intends to push ahead with its parcel plans, binning the Four Pillars agreement signed last year, regardless of CWU disagreement and Parcelforce workers voting 95 per cent for strike action.

Now that a general election has been called, new anti-union CEO Rico Back, who has not attended a single mediation session, penned a public letter to the union demanding we drop the strike for the duration because it would be undemocratic! The CWU’s response is that there is no law against striking during a general election and we will take the action to defend ourselves: quite right.

A postal strike will knock them for six anytime, but Christmas is very important for Royal Mail profits and we have massive power then. That is why at every turn they are seeking to delay the strike with empty talks and promises. The CWU has tried to tick all the boxes required legally, but everyone knows Royal Mail will go for an injunction, possibly linked to the general election, in order to block strikes hitting Christmas, when hundreds of thousands of extra parcels flood the system per week.

Postal workers must likewise prepare for action from below, while demanding no delay from our leaders.

Fake talks to delay
Terry Pullinger, CWU General Secretary Postal, explained in detail to workers on a live, Facebook Q&A session how the required mediation had been a sham. The CWU offered six weeks of serious negotiations (cutting into our pre-Christmas strike period, a real sacrifice) which Royal Mail ignored, instead arguing to have separate mediations on every issue to tie the union into talks forever.

When the mediator’s report came out supporting the union’s stance, the union contacted Royal Mail to see if they could meet to discuss it, only to be told nobody was available because it was schools’ half term! They pencilled in a measly four hours the following week. That’s how serious Royal Mail takes these negotiations.

Now in a cynical PR stunt to confuse the public and workers, Royal Mail published a proposal for “talks without preconditions” in the new year, if there were no strikes in the run up to Christmas!

In a blitz of manager “updates” to staff at work, letters home, and messages sent to scanners as we work, they are trying to spin this as the company taking “a significant step” to reach out! Few workers will be taken in by these hypocritical con artists. And in terms of preconditions, voiced as if it were a massive concession, Back is trying to avoid the one big “precondition”: return to the agreement you are currently trying to rip up.

We have wasted time with mediation. Besides Royal Mail is demanding no strikes during any future talks. Workers must insist that CWU leaders don’t concede this. We can “walk and talk” at the same time.

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