Royal Mail refused Muslim staff time off for Eid, CWU condemns ‘clear case of discrimination’

CWUPostal workers who were refused time off to celebrate a religious holiday are considering legal action against Royal Mail.

Muslim staff at the regional distribution centre in Stourton, Leeds, say they are usually allowed to take the day off to mark Eid-ul-Fitr – the end of the holy month of Ramadan. But around 50 workers who wanted leave to mark the festival last Friday were told they could not have the day off this year “for operational reasons”. Many, however, refused to turn up and are now facing disciplinary hearings over “unauthorised absences”.

One staff member told the YEP: “In previous years shifts have been organised so there was cover for those who wanted to celebrate Eid. For some reason this year the management either forgot to do this or deliberately did not do it. It is the most important time of the year for many of us and it is very important we are with our families. I was not prepared to work.”

Union bosses are now holding talks with senior managers to secure agreements that, in future, cover will be provided for Muslims who want time off to mark religious holidays. And they have warned they are prepared to take the company to an employment tribunal, alleging discrimination.

Andy Lee, secretary of the Communications Workers Union Leeds No1 Amalgamated branch, said: “We know they cannot always release everybody, but they have always tried to release as many as possible. This year they simply said ‘unfortunately, we can’t do it’ and so they cancelled leave for all. They knew it was coming as it does every year and they should have planned for it.

“Our members are very upset – my phone did not stop ringing. Many members decided they would not go in to work and as a result they are facing hearings over unauthorised absences. We’re already fighting those. We’re actively pursuing this. There is another Eid coming up at the end of November and we want to avoid a similar confrontation.

“If we have to then we are prepared to take it to a tribunal because we believe it is a clear case of discrimination.”

Yorkshire Evening Post, 14 September 2010