NEXT week's planned 48-hour strike by postal workers has been blocked after Royal Mail won a High Court injunction.
But the High Court today sided with Royal Mail's contention that the proposed industrial action was in breach of a side agreement mandating further actions must first take place.
Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) were set to walk out from October 19 after voting massively in favour of industrial action in a long-running row over pensions, pay and jobs.
The company has written to the CWU invoking a "legally binding external mediation process", and reiterating that any industrial action would be unlawful. The company claimed that under an agreement with the union the CWU must enter mediation with Royal Mail before embarking on industrial action.
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CWU general secretary Dave Ward said last week that the dispute was a "watershed" moment that would determine not only members' pensions, jobs and pay but also the future of the UK's postal service. "We're going in there with a 90% vote for action and whatever happens today we'll be walking out of here with a 90% vote for action".
Royal Mail responded to the announcement by calling the action "illegal". That means strike action in the run-up to the busy festive period now appears unlikely. The judged ruled that pressing ahead with the strike without following the dispute resolution procedures, which include involving an external party to mediate on talks, would be unlawful. In return, the CWU committed to an industrial stability framework with defined processes and strict timescales to resolve disputes.
"We are very committed to working closely with the CWU in order to reach agreement as a matter of priority". "We must work together to save it", he said.
Shares in Royal Mail edged up 0.5 per cent in the minutes after the court decision.