Union loses appeal against Royal Mail after High Court blocked workers from going on strike
- Royal Mail took out an injunction to block strikes relating to employment terms
- The order also prevented workers from taking industrial action over job security
- Communication Workers Union today failed to have the decision overturned
- Court of appeal said the union’s conduct amounted to interference with election
The Communication Workers Union has lost an appeal against a High Court injunction granted to Royal Mail blocking potential strikes by its members.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) attempted to overturn an injunction granted to Royal Mail to block potential strikes related to a dispute over job security and employment terms.
Royal Mail had claimed that the vote for industrial action – supported by 97 per cent on a 76 per cent turnout – was invalid because members had been encouraged to open their voting papers at work before they were delivered to their homes.
The Communication Workers Union has lost an appeal against a High Court (pictured) injunction granted to Royal Mail blocking potential strikes by its members
The Court of Appeal dismissed the CWU’s appeal on Thursday afternoon, ruling that ‘the conduct of the union… had the effect of amounting to interference’ with the voting process.
Lord Justice Males, sitting with Lady Justice Simler and Sir Patrick Elias, said that ‘the union did not intend to do anything unlawful’, but ruled that the ballot was nonetheless invalid.
The judge added that the court would give its full reasons for its decision at a later date.
opening the CWU’s appeal against that decision on Thursday, Lord Hendy QC argued that the injunction ‘effectively overrode an overwhelming vote to strike’ on the basis of ‘trivial’ infringements.
He submitted that the CWU ‘merely encouraged members to vote at work’, adding that ‘far from subverting’ the voting process, ‘the steps the appellant took were all to ensure each member received his or her ballot paper’.
Referring to a video of around 10 CWU members voting in public, Lord Hendy conceded that ‘the enthusiasm of some members evidently got the better of common sense and their desire to return a ‘yes’ vote’.
But he added: ‘Not voting in secret can properly be described as an error on the part of those concerned and unintentional on the part of the appellant.
‘In the context of such an overwhelming expression of democracy (representing) less than 0.001 per cent of votes it can only be described as trifling.’
In written submissions, Royal Mail’s barrister, Bruce Carr QC, said the workplace interception of ballot papers ‘was no spontaneous act – those who voted in this way were following the instructions given to them by the CWU’.
He added: ‘The extent to which the instructions were implemented is demonstrated by the geographical breadth of the evidence obtained thus far by Royal Mail Group.’
Mr Carr argued that ‘the CWU had subverted the ballot process … by directing its members to retrieve their ballot papers and cast their votes at work’.
He submitted: ‘The fact is that the CWU was in a unique position to undermine the statutory scheme that was put in place for the purpose of balloting for industrial action – it took advantage of that position to create a de facto workplace ballot.’
Lord Justice Males, Lady Justice Simler and Sir Patrick Elias will hear submissions from the CWU and Royal Mail over one day.
The judges are not expected to give a ruling on Thursday, but it is not yet known when they are likely to give a decision.