Royal Mail legal challenge called off as postal union backs down

The postal workers union has climbed down over its decision to mount a legal challenge against Royal Mail’s policy to employ 30,000 agency workers to clear the backlog of post.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) had been due to go to the High Court today, to seek an injunction to stop Royal Mail using the temporary staff to conduct the work of striking postal staff – something Royal Mail strongly denied.

It is not clear whether the union will press ahead with the injunction in the New Year, or what the reasons were behind the change of heart.

A CWU spokesperson told Personnel Today the union was not talking about the situation as part of efforts to “build better relations” with Royal Mail.

She said: “We will not be in the High Court today. The agreement reached yesterday between ourselves and Royal Mail resolves many issues, and we are committed to improving industrial relations within the company.

“The CWU has served notice for legal proceedings regarding the issue of agency workers which allows us to keep this issue open. However, we hope that improvements in industrial relations and returning to normal working practices will mean that a legal challenge is not necessary.”

Guy Lamb, employment partner at legal firm DLA Piper, said the CWU’s legal challenge was always unlikely to succeed, because Royal Mail was not breaking any law by bringing in temporary workers during strike action.

“Unless you’re on the inside it’s difficult to know what the reasons are as to why [the CWU] backed down at the last minute,” he said.

“Going for an injunction is an expensive business. I don’t think they would have got as far as they did if it was completely doomed, but it was going to be an imaginative case.

“They were going to have to be creative to get it off the ground. We all thought you never quite know, but I don’t really feel it had a great chance of success.”

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “We welcome the union’s decision as we have said, right from the outset, that everything we were doing was completely in line with employment law.”

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