Royal Mail sites “potential irregularities” in CWU vote
Royal Mail plc will today make an application to the High Court for an interim order to injunct CWU with respect to its recent postal ballot of Royal Mail employees for industrial action. The Company believes there are potential irregularities in the ballot, which would render it unlawful.
The Company is making this High Court application because the integrity and legal soundness of any electoral process is vital. 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 Company has previously written to CWU on two occasions. It provided CWU with the information on which this application is based. Undertakings were sought from CWU that, given the clear evidence of breaches of the Trade Unions and Labour Regulations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (‘TULRCA’), it would refrain from industrial action. No such undertakings were given.
Royal Mail is seeking a High Court order that the ballot, which opened on 24 September 2019 and closed on 15 October 2019, was unlawful and, therefore, null and void. The Company is asking that, 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. The Company expects its application to be heard in the High Court in the week commencing 11 November 2019.
Royal Mail’s application does not apply to employees within Parcelforce Worldwide. They are the subject of separate ballot notices.
Trade Unions and Labour Regulations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA)
The TULRCA rules are designed to safeguard democratic integrity by ensuring union members can vote in the privacy of their own homes, rather than in any public process. Royal Mail’s application to the High Court is based on two specific provisions under Section 230 of TULRCA. They say that every person entitled to vote in the ballot:
- is entitled, as far as reasonably practicable, to have a voting paper sent to him by post at his home address or any other address which he has requested the trade union in writing to treat as his postal address; and
- must be allowed to vote without interference from, or constraint imposed by, the union or any of its members, officials or employees.
Royal Mail has supplied substantial evidence to the High Court from at least 72 of its UK sites – there may be substantially more – that some or all of the acts listed below occurred. The Company believes the evidence demonstrates that CWU officials, including coordination and direction at a senior level, have planned and orchestrated breaches of their legal obligations. The evidence includes members:
- being asked to intercept and remove their ballot papers from mail coming into their delivery offices, before they were delivered to their homes;
- being instructed to vote “yes” and being encouraged to do so in groups; and
- being encouraged 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.
Under the postal regulatory framework, Royal Mail is required to have documented operating procedures in relation to mails integrity; these are in place. Royal Mail’s procedures make it clear that employees cannot open their mail at the delivery office without the prior authorisation of their manager. Alongside our application for an injunction, we will review whether any further action is required. We have also informed Ofcom.