Royal Mail Wins High Court Strike Injunction

Andrew Burns QC and Alice Carse obtained a High Court injunction on behalf of Royal Mail to prevent the Communication Workers’ Union calling its members out on strike in the important pre-Christmas period.

In Royal Mail Group v CWU [2017] EWHC 2548 (QB) Supperstone J granted the Royal Mail’s application for an injunction to prohibit the CWU from calling its members out on strike until the parties exhausted contractual dispute resolution procedures in a legally enforceable collective agreement. The Judge rejected CWU’s argument that Royal Mail had waited too long to invoke the external mediation procedure on the basis that it had not referred the dispute to mediation ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’.  In his judgment Supperstone J stated that CWU’s call for strike action was unlawful because it was in continuing breach of its contractual obligation not to call for strike action until the external mediation process had been exhausted.

The Court applied the principles of contractual interpretation from Investors Compensation Scheme Ltd v West Bromwich Building Society [1998] 1 WLR 896 and PSA v Secretary of the Treasury [2014] 87 NSWLR 4 - an Australian industrial court case which held that “the construction should be one which contributes to a sensible industrial outcome”.  The Judge held that it did not view, make “business common sense” and is unlikely to contribute to “a sensible industrial outcome” for parties to a disagreement to be denied the opportunity to refer the matter to external mediation unless the reference is made immediately or very shortly after one month of the “discussions” commencing. 

Given the severe financial and logistical consequences of strike action for Royal Mail, the Judge found that damages were not an adequate remedy and the balance of convenience was clearly in favour of granting the injunction.

The case has received widespread media coverage, examples of which can be accessed via the following links: BBC  The Telegraph  The Guardian.

Andrew Burns QC and Alice Carse were instructed by Nick Chronias of DAC Beachcroft.

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