Monday, June 3, 2019

CWU vs Post Office


Today the Post Office was forced to open another legal front, separate to the Bates and others v Post Office group litigation.

Victory House on Kingsway in London was the scene of the first hearing in an action started last year by the Communications Workers Union, which is trying to establish holiday rights for Subpostmasters.

If the judge accepts the CWU's arguments, it will become a test case for determining whether Subpostmasters are "workers" rather than agents.

Being designated a "worker" confers a number of legal rights, including the right to be paid the minimum wage. In a recent submission to the BEIS select committee inquiry on the Post Office's sustainability as a network, one Subpostmaster calculated his hourly income for one week to be £2.12 (click here, scroll down to Edward Rigg's contribution). The cost implications for the Post Office are enormous.

As you might imagine the Post Office is resisting the CWU's claim with a strategy which does appear to make the legal process take more time and cost far more money than the CWU would like. At today's hearing (according to the CWU - I went along but wasn't allowed in), the CWU's lawyers  argued for a full tribunal hearing this year. The Post Office said that was impossible. 

The Post Office also apparently wants a four week trial, whereas the CWU's legal advisors are adamant the matter can be dealt with in 7 - 10 days.

In the end (again, according to the CWU) it was a score draw - the tribunal won't be held until April 2020 at the earliest, but the judge said there's no way he's giving over four weeks of court time for it.

A final decision on the date of the tribunal and its length will be made on 11 October. Hopefully at an open hearing.

I've asked the Post Office for their perspective on what happened today and will post it as soon as I receive it.

UPDATE: The Post Office says - "This was the first preliminary hearing.  Its purpose was to deal with some administrative matters and fix directions for the management of the case going forward.  A further preliminary hearing has now been listed for October."

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