Royal Mail bosses have successfully blocked the threat of strike action through the courts. This overturns the massive vote for striking by CWU members. A militant and immediate response from across the labour movement is now needed.
Despite achieving a massive majority and turnout – one of the largest in any election or ballot of recent times – the recent CWU strike ballot has been ruled illegal by the High Court.
The case was brought before the courts at the request of Royal Mail (RM) management. The decision to block the strike demonstrates clearly that the legal system is a bosses’ system. It shows without doubt that the Tory (anti-)trade union laws are solely designed to protect profits.
The ballot result gave a clear indication of the wishes of the vast majority of CWU members. Now these have been put aside by the commands of a legal system whose primary purpose is to represent the capitalist class.
No one can seriously believe that the outcome of the vote did not clearly reflect the mood of the workforce as a whole. Yet their voices count for nothing it seems.
The High Court has ruled against us. Genuinely this is an utter outrage. 110,000 workers vs the establishment.
We will be live shortly.
Stand strong. We will not be moved #WeRiseAgain ?
— The CWU (@CWUnews) November 13, 2019
As CWU general secretary Dave Ward explained immediately after the ruling was announced:
“Not one single person out of 110,000 who were balloted complained to Royal Mail that their right to vote was interfered with. Not one single person out of 110,000 who were balloted complained to the independent scrutineers that their right to vote was interfered with. The Electoral Reform Society, who conducted the ballot, confirmed it was run in full accordance of the law.”
The only people who complained were RM managers, under orders from the top. Pathetic technicalities were brought up and used to justify this disgraceful ruling. These included posties opening letters addressed to themselves – rather than delivering the ballot paper, opening their front door, and going inside to then open the letter.
The bosses also complained to the judge that postal workers were seen posting their ballots in groups and on camera. This was an indication of just how angry the Royal Mail workforce is. Yet it was used as ‘evidence’ to deny posties their rights.
CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger summed it up well: this is a court for “millionaires and the establishment”.
In addition, we should note, in seeking to explain his decision, Justice Swift noted that the general election was of “wider public interest”. In other words, the strike should be banned because it would be too effective and the establishment is afraid!
The mood on the shop floor is extremely angry over this. The bosses know that even if a new ballot now takes place, the result would not be known until after Christmas – a period when postal workers clearly hold a great deal of power.
All along, management’s tactic has been to try and get action put off until the New Year. This removes the strong impact that striking would have had during the busiest period of the year – especially with a general election looming.
Many workers are demanding at the very least an immediate call to work-to-rule, with no overtime. No doubt RM bosses will use the seasonal (casual) labour they have been recruiting in recent weeks to try and mitigate against this.
The first port of call is to appeal against the High Court decision. However, the chance of finding a judge who is prepared to act in favour of workers in remote. The legal establishment is part of the bosses’ establishment. The former exist to defend the interests of the latter. Both get huge pay packets each month – unlike postal workers, who are forced to work to the bone.
But the issues that led to the strike ballot – and the huge turnout and result – cannot be magicked away. Management, led by corporate raiders like Rico Back, are determined to break the union, destroy Royal Mail, and strip its assets. Workers will never accept this.
The CWU has called for the whole trade union and labour movement to rise up against this – a “call to arms” as Dave Ward put it. This attack on the CWU is an attack on the whole movement. A militant response is needed.
One way or another, these anti-trade union laws must be smashed. We are approaching the breaking point where workers say “stuff the law” and just strike anyway. Wildcat strikes and spontaneous walkouts are therefore on the order of the day.
Corbyn’s Labour have pledged to repeal all anti-trade union laws once in power. This promise must be reaffirmed. Labour must denounce this latest legal attack on workers, and give its backing to any unofficial action that CWU members now take.
Above all, this episode shows why we need to fight with all our might for a socialist Labour government in the coming weeks – one that will boot out Boris’ bosses government, take Royal Mail back into public ownership, and run the postal service under workers’ control and management.
The time to fight back is now.