Royal Mail court rul­ing halts postal strike

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Ra­jeev Syal

Royal Mail has halted Bri­tain’s first planned na­tional walk­out by postal work­ers since it was pri­va­tised, af­ter suc­cess­fully ap­ply­ing for a high court in­junc­tion.

Lawyers for the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Work­ers Union failed to re­buff an at­tempt at the Royal Courts of Jus­tice to stop a 48hour walk­out from next Thurs­day.

Mem­bers of the CWU voted over­whelm­ingly last week in favour of strikes. Staff were also con­sid­er­ing tak­ing in­dus­trial ac­tion dur­ing the Black Fri­day re­tail sales event next month or dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son.

Royal Mail, which was pri­va­tised four years ago, ar­gued that the CWU had missed a Mon­day dead­line to re­move the threat and agree to ne­go­ti­a­tions. The com­pany claimed that un­der an agree­ment be­tween the two par­ties the CWU must en­ter me­di­a­tion with Royal Mail be­fore em­bark­ing on in­dus­trial ac­tion.

The CWU in turn claimed it had been try­ing to find a so­lu­tion to the dis­pute for 18 months. Last week, 89% of the CWU’s 111,000 work­ers backed a walk­out in a dis­pute over pen­sions, pay and jobs, with 74% of mem­bers turn­ing out to vote.

The vote was a test for the union af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of the Trade Union Act, which re­quires strike bal­lots to have a 50% turnout. Mr Jus­tice Sup­per­stone, who granted the in­junc­tion, said: “I con­sider the strike call to be un­law­ful and the de­fen­dant is obliged to with­draw its strike call un­til the ex­ter­nal me­di­a­tion process has been ex­hausted.”

More than 100 postal work­ers, in­clud­ing Dave Ward, the CWU’s gen­eral sec­re­tary, gath­ered out­side the court for the ver­dict. After­wards the union said it was “ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed” at the rul­ing and claimed that strike ac­tion was in­evitable with­out a ma­jor change in po­si­tion by the com­pany.

Ward said: “The com­pany are de­luded if they be­lieve their court­room pol­i­tics will re­solve this dis­pute. In­stead the com­pany’s ac­tions will have the com­plete op­po­site ef­fect.

“Postal work­ers’ at­ti­tude to­wards the com­pany will harden and it makes us more de­ter­mined than ever to de­fend our mem­bers’ pen­sions, jobs, ser­vice and achieve our ob­jec­tives.

“Un­less the com­pany sig­nif­i­cantly shifts its po­si­tion on a range of is­sues and we can quickly con­clude a good agree­ment for our mem­bers then strike ac­tion is in­evitable.”

A spokesman for Royal Mail said: “We will now make con­tact with the CWU as a mat­ter of ur­gency to be­gin the process of ex­ter­nal me­di­a­tion.”

He added that the “me­di­a­tion process will take close to Christ­mas to be com­pleted, and may be longer”.

The court agreed with Royal Mail that the union must en­ter me­di­a­tion with the com­pany be­fore launch­ing any in­dus­trial ac­tion

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