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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

The wrong ballot result

by New Worker correspondent

AS THE previous New Worker was journeying through the postal system it was announced that a judge in the High Court had invalidated an overwhelming vote (of 97 per cent on a 75 per cent turnout) for industrial action. After a two-day hearing at the Royal Court of Justice, Mr Justice Swift supported claims by the Royal Mail that the ballot of 110,000 workers was improperly conducted because the Communication Workers Union (CWU) encouraged members to take their voting papers from work before they were delivered to their homes and vote at their workplaces.

His Lordship perhaps came to this conclusion because the result was only the third time that the threshold for a national strike action set by the 2016 Trade Union Act was met. But he accepted Royal Mail claims that CWU officials had interfered with the ballot by encouraging members to share their votes on social media. Royal Mail said earlier, however, that they had launched the legal challenge “because of the damage industrial action would do to the company and its customers in the run-up to Christmas”.

The dispute is about the future of the postal service, preserving pensions and working conditions and moving towards a 35-hour working week. Whilst much of this was agreed in theory, CWU accuses Royal Mail bosses of dragging their feet and encouraging bullying in depots.

Afterwards, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said that postal workers are “extremely angry” and “bitterly disappointed that one judge has granted Royal Mail an injunction to invalidate our ballot for strike action”.

He observed that not a single one of the 110,000 workers who were balloted complained either to Royal Mail or the scrutineers about the ballot. Ward added: “We appeal to the TUC and workers everywhere — in what is a call to arms — that it’s time for us to fundamentally shift the balance of forces in this country back to working people and remove these draconian laws once and for all.”

He had better not hold his breath. Almost a week on neither the TUC nor the Scottish TUC has said a word. Silence has been the general rule from most unions, including Unite and civil service union PCS, which has had problems with low turnouts prohibiting industrial action under the same laws.

One exception was shop-worker’s union USDAW, whose General Secretary, Paddy Lillis, said that: “Royal Mail’s decision to seek the injunction was ‘a cowardly and vicious attack on its own workforce’.” He also observed that: “We regard this development as a threat to the entire trade union movement, the right to campaign and the democratic right to strike.”

On Tuesday another case of the threshold preventing action came from transport union RMT. Despite over 98 per cent of RMT London Underground cleaner members employed by ABM voting for strike action, they cannot lawfully take strike action simply because they failed by less than two per cent to meet the arbitrary threshold.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Despite an overwhelming vote for action we have failed to meet the arbitrary thresholds set by the Government and the fact that the tube cleaners will now be denied the right to strike is wholly down to the toxic combination of the Tory anti-union laws and a bullying and hostile environment created by ABM.” He warned that: “RMT will review the situation but no-one should be under any illusions. This fight for workplace justice goes on and we will be stepping up the pressure on the London Mayor to end the scandal of the two-tier workforce on London Underground.”