Workers' anger increases after Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers
A Royal Mail worker
"The public has a right to be protected from unsupported disruption being caused by a small proportion of union members and that's exactly what the Trade Union Act will do." That was according to Tory business minister Margot James speaking on the introduction of the Trade Union Act 2016.
But the true nature of the legislation was thrust into the open on 12 October when the judiciary came to the rescue of Royal Mail bosses in defying a democratic strike ballot result.
It was the first national ballot for strike action since the act's introduction. 72,877 Communication Workers Union (CWU) members voted to fight back against Royal Mail's attack on their pension rights and refusal to engage seriously over pay, working hours, future job security and the need to improve the service.
Those members would surely be forgiven for expecting that an 89.1% yes vote, on a 73% turnout, is no "small proportion", especially given that it smashed through the thresholds outlined in the Trade Union Act.
But the Royal Court of Justice ruled in favour of Royal Mail's claim that the full 'external mediation process' hadn't been exhausted, despite around 18 months of negotiations and the company having already informed workers about the changes to pensions.
Plans for a 48-hour strike from 19 October have been "postponed" with the union forced to enter mediation with the company.
The company's motivation - far from wanting to meaningfully engage in mediation - was revealed by a press release stating: "We expect the process to take close to Christmas to be completed, and maybe longer."
It is now evident that the thresholds in the act are not there to 'protect' the public but are another way of removing workers' right to strike.
And this result shows that bosses can then also rely on the judiciary to bail them out, should the thresholds be met in ballot results.
The anger already felt by members against the actions of the company has been added to by this court decision. Unofficial walkouts are possible and these must be supported by the union leadership.
This is an attack on all workers' right to strike and take action. Unions must recognise the implications of the new trade union laws. Members must pressure their leaders to create mass resistance, demanding TUC-organised support including solidarity action if necessary.
It is important that we fight this weak Tory government. These archaic anti-union laws can be put into the dustbin of history and Royal Mail can be placed into democratic public ownership for the benefit of workers and society.