Royal Mail has won a High Court injunction preventing next week’s planned 48-hour strike by postal workers.
The proposed strike, called by the Communication Workers Union in response the company’s decision to close its defined benefit pension scheme, would have been the first since Royal Mail was privatised four years ago.
A ballot of the CWU’s 110,000 members produced an 89% vote in favour of strike, with a 74% turnout.
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Granting the injunction, Mr Justice Supperstone said: “I consider the strike call to be unlawful and the defendant is obliged to withdraw its strike call until the external mediation process has been exhausted.”
A statement from Royal Mail said: “We will now make contact with the CWU as a matter of urgency to begin the process of external mediation.
“We are very committed to working closely with the CWU in order to reach agreement as a matter of priority,” said the group, adding that the mediation process would last until Christmas.
Royal Mail announced in April that it planned to close its final salary pension scheme in March 2018 – despite the fund being in surplus – following a consultation with around 100,000 affected workers. It said that, without change, the cost of running the scheme would more than double to £1 billion.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said the High Court’s decision would make union members “disappointed and angry”.
Royal Mail had “acted in bad faith”, according to Ward, adding that the injunction sets a formal timetable for negotiations and that, unless it shifted its position “significantly and quickly” it would soon have to face “the reality of industrial action”.
John Gordon, counsel at Ashurst law firm, said: “This ruling reminds unions that they cannot down tools before going through the required mediation process.”
CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger accused the delivery business of “trying to stop the democratic rights” of its members.
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“They haven’t cancelled this dispute, they’ve just postponed the dispute,” added deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger.