Despite a 97% vote in favour of strike action by CWU members, the High Court has granted Royal Mail an injunction to stop the strikes, writes David McAllister
The decision by the High Court on Wednesday against the planned strike action by postal workers in the CWU is an absolute disgrace, and should be viewed as such by every single trade unionist and every single person in the country who wants to protect our public services and see an alternative to austerity. Royal Mail bosses have spitefully used the courts to prevent 110,000 workers from protecting their own pay and conditions, despite a huge 97% in favour of strike action on a 75% turnout. This is draconian rule by a tiny minority against a huge majority, and is a battle which should concern us all.
Even after the privatisation of Royal Mail in 2013, postal workers have continually fought to uphold the public service ethos in the face of the profiteers’ greedy agenda, with agreed protections on pay and conditions, resistance to casualised work and zero-hours contracts, and for a reliable 6-day-week delivery service to every part of the country.
Specifically, this strike concerns Royal Mail’s Universal Service Obligation, which upholds many of the agreements workers have fought for, and the ‘four pillars of agreement’ which also ensures that workers are able to have an input in the future direction of the industry.
This has all been brazenly abandoned by the Royal Mail CEO Rico Back, who receives a £2.7 million pay packet, which he pays no tax on as he is based in Switzerland. While consistently refusing to consult with the CWU, Back has brought in reforms to deepen privatisation, reduce Royal Mail to a 5-day-week resulting in 20,000 job losses, and to weaken legal protections. Assisting him was Donald Muir, a management consultant whose firm once charged the NHS £935,000 in a single year for advice on pro-market reforms, and who were branded as ‘racketeers’ as a result.
That these people are now using the courts to halt opposition to such an arrogant disregard for worker-employer agreements is incredible. One complaint made by Royal Mail bosses is that strikes will cause disruption during the General Election and the Christmas period. No worker trying to defend their own conditions should ever give in to this kind of moral blackmail. This is simply a war of bosses against workers, and we should be as clear as our enemies which side we are on.
Another complaint is that workers intercepted their own ballots and submitted them while still at work, instead of delivering them to themselves and voting at home instead. Well, so what? This appears to be yet another component of anti-union legislation which throws up as many roadblocks to workers’ resistance as possible. It is also a bit rich coming from employers who have shown a greater disregard for the rules than anyone else.
Along with their use of social media to publicise gate meetings and balloting at work, the CWU has been an inspiration right across the labour movement in the innovation and workplace organisation it has used in order to smash the draconian ballot threshold brought in the Trade Union Act in 2016. Royal Mail bosses are simply sore losers who are now fighting a class war through the courts.
The High Court decision comes on the same day that rail bosses at Interserve called the British Transport Police to a redundancy meeting in an attempt to remove Steve Hedley of the RMT union, denying workers their right to union representation. Every form of resistance possible should be used to oppose these attempts by bosses to use the law for union-busting operations.
In the end, the power of bosses over workers looks to institutions which we didn't elect and which aren't on our side.
As CWU wrote on Twitter in response to the decision, this is “110,000 workers vs the establishment… stand strong. We will not be moved”. Postal workers are in the front line of a battle to defend all public services, defeat austerity, reverse privatisation, and to bring to an end to nearly 10 years of rotten Tory governments. They need our solidarity.
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