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What Royal Mail have said in the court case...

13 Nov 2019, 10:26

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Royal Mail has accused trade union officials of “consciously and deliberately” interfering with a ballot of postal workers over potential strikes.

The company is bringing a High Court action against the Communication Workers Union (CWU) in a bid to block threatened action, after members voted to back walkouts by 97 per cent on a turnout of 76 per cent.

The union, which has not set a date for strikes, denies the allegations and is contesting the case.

Royal Mail claims the union orchestrated a “de facto workplace ballot”, contrary to rules on industrial action, to maximise the turnout and the yes vote.

The company’s lawyers told a hearing in London, on Tuesday, that evidence collected from around the UK suggests the union encouraged members to intercept their ballot papers at work, vote immediately, then share images of themselves returning the papers using the nearest post box on social media.

Bruce Carr QC, for Royal Mail, told the court: “What the defendant has done is consciously and deliberately interfered in the balloting process in order to achieve maximum turnout and a maximum yes vote.

“In its desire to maximise voter turnout and a substantial yes vote for strike action, the (CWU) has ridden roughshod over the requirement for a secret ballot based on the delivery of voting papers to the home addresses of its members.

“From the evidence which the claimant has obtained to date, there is a strong inference that senior officials within the defendant devised and implemented a plan designed to create a de facto workplace ballot – with members being directed to intercept ballot papers at work, vote collectively and then post the results of the exercise on social media outlets.

“The evidence of this widespread malpractice gathered to date is drawn from all corners of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and may well represent the tip of the iceberg.”

Mr Carr told Mr Justice Swift, who is hearing the case, that he is “entitled” to take into account the “wider public interest”.

He added: “A strike, as threatened by the defendant, appears designed to cause maximum pain to the public, both in relation to ‘Cyber Week’ and the Christmas period, but also to disrupt the General Election on December 12.”

CWU lawyers argue there is no evidence of interference with the ballot and that “legitimate partisan campaigning” by the union in favour of a yes vote did not violate the rules.

Referring to one film of members posting their ballot papers, Lord Hendy QC, representing the union, said: “Hundreds of members are shown with sealed ballot envelopes and, regardless of what they claimed, no-one could know in which box they had placed their X.

“They had voted secretly, so far as the evidence shows.

“There is nothing objectionable about photographing or filming members placing their sealed envelopes in a post box.”

What Royal Mail have said in the court case...

13 Nov 2019, 10:28 ... -election/

Postal union unlawfully 'coercing' Royal Mail workers to strike during election, court hears

The postal workers union attempted a “denial of democracy” by unlawfully coercing Royal Mail staff to strike during the general election, a court has heard.

The company is seeking an injunction against the Communication Workers Union (CWU) to prevent a mass walkout that could see millions of postal ballots go uncounted during the campaign.

Members of the CWU, which represents two thirds of the Royal Mail's workforce, last month voted by 97pc to refuse to work amid unrest about their job security and employment conditions.

But Bruce Carr QC, representing the Royal Mail, today warned the High Court that industrial action could see candidates unfairly win in areas where the number of postal votes could be suppressed.

Bruce Carr QC said: “There is a potential denial of democracy-postal boxes that are not counted may mean that a candidate wins a seat that they would not have otherwise won.”

“The union will want to cause as much pain as it can to get the employer to buckle, knowing full well there will be huge pressure towards Royal Mail if there is any possible risk to the democratic right to exercise postal voting.”

Royal Mail's procedures state employees cannot open their mail at delivery offices without the prior authorisation of their manager

He claimed the union orchestrated a “de facto workplace ballot”, in which members were encouraged to intercept their ballot papers at work and vote collectively, where there was more pressure to vote 'yes' than there would be privately.

Royal Mail's procedures state employees cannot open their mail at delivery offices without the prior authorisation of their manager.

It comes after Conservative MPs warned that any major disruption to postal voting may increase Labour’s chances of electoral success and leave the final election result open to legal challenge.

Studies have shown that elderly people are more likely to request a postal vote, with nearly half of Tory voters being aged 65 or over.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Andrea Leadsom, the Business Minister, said that the “timing of this threat is clearly politically calculated” and it would be a “taste of things to come” if Jeremy Corbyn were to be elected as Prime Minister.

CWU lawyers dismissed these claims, arguing that there was no evidence of interference with the ballot.

Mr Justice Swift, who is chairing the case, said he hopes to give his ruling on Wednesday.

If the Royal Mail wins, the union may not have time to strike before the election scheduled for December 12.

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