The high court has sided with Royal Mail bosses to rule that a national strike ballot of some 110,000 postal workers was unlawful.
Judge Jonathan Swift, formerly one of the government’s chief law officers, agreed that the CWU union’s campaign to win the ballot had breached the law by encouraging members to vote at work.
He also said that the forthcoming election was a factor in making his decision.
The CWU waged a high-profile campaign to beat the 50 percent turnout threshold demanded by anti-union laws, and to win a Yes vote.
Some 97 percent voted for strikes on a 76 percent turnout. They are fighting against bosses’ plans to break up Royal Mail, which would cause tens of thousands of job losses and an attack on working conditions.
But bosses said that the campaign breached the law because some workers opened their ballot papers at work then filmed and photographed themselves voting.
They argued in court that the union had created “a de facto workplace ballot”. Workplace ballots were outlawed by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government to undermine union organisation.
Swift said the CWU’s campaign was a “form of subversion of the ballot process”.
The ruling is a serious attack on the right of unions to organise and campaign for strikes in the workplace. And it’s a cynical ploy by bosses to stop workers defending their jobs and working conditions by using their right to strike.
The CWU said the ruling was a “genuine outrage”.
And general secretary Dave Ward said, “CWU members will be and are extremely angry and bitterly disappointed that one judge has granted Royal Mail an injunction to invalidate our ballot for strike action.
“We have run a fantastic modern day campaign that combines face to face meetings with use of social media to engage willing members to maximise the yes vote and turnout.
“Members participated and cast their vote of their own free will. To suggest otherwise is to insult the intelligence and the integrity of thousands and thousands of good hard working people.”
“This injunction is not only a massive injustice to our members it’s also an injustice to every worker in the country.”
Postal workers hit out at the ruling on social media. “The workers get shafted once again. Shock horror!” said one.
“Where is democracy? We have used our democratic right. This is a kick in the teeth to all the work force and to the 110,000 that voted.”
Others still wanted to take action in the form of a work to rule, and overtime ban or action short of strike.
“I don’t think Royal Mail have realised what they have done, the workforce is basically going to be non-existent now,” said one worker on Facebook.
“If everyone sticks together and tells the managers to stuff their overtime and deliver the parcels themselves, Royal Mail will have a shock at how much doesn’t get done within normal hours.”
Another asked if workers could refuse to deliver election leaflets.
Ward said the union “will be doing everything in our power to oppose the company’s industry-destroying plans and this decision.” He said options included appealing the decision, and re-balloting for strikes.
Both of these would mean further delaying the possibility of strikes—meaning Royal Mail bosses get what they want.
The best response is to defy the law and strike anyway.