After successfully seeking a high court injunction, Royal Mail has halted the first planned national walkout by postal workers in Britain since it was privatised.
The lawyers for the Communication Workers Union was not able to rebuff an attempt at the Royal Courts of Justice to prevent a 48-hour walkout from the 19th October.
Last week, members of the CWU overwhelmingly voted in favour of strikes. Staff were also contemplating about taking industrial action during the Black Friday retail sales event that is due next month or during the festive season.
Royal Mail, which was made privatised four years ago, argued that the CWU had missed a Monday deadline to agree to negotiations and remove the threat. The company insisted that under an agreement between the two parties, the CWU must enter mediation with Royal Mail before starting an industrial action.
The CW, in turn, claimed that it had been attempting to look for a solution to the dispute for 18 months.
The company has communicated with the CWU requesting a “legally binding external mediation process”, and reiterating that any form of industrial action would be unlawful.
Last week, 89 percent of the 111,000 workers of the CWU supported a walkout in a dispute over pay, jobs, and pensions, with 74 percent of members turning out to vote. The said vote was a test for the union after the presentation of the Trade Union Act, which demands strike ballots to have a 50 percent turnout.
The ballot is a part of a flurry of union activity this autumn as the public sector and health workers consider the possibility of industrial action.
Mr Justice Supperstone, who allowed the injunction, stated: “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.”
Over 100 postal workers, including the CWU’s general secretary, Dave Ward, gathered outside the high court for the decision.
Afterwards, the union stated that it was “extremely disappointed” at the ruling and insisted that strike action was inevitable in the absence of a major change in position by the company.
Ward stated: “The company are deluded if they believe their courtroom politics will resolve this dispute. Instead the company’s actions will have the complete opposite effect.
“Postal workers’ attitude towards the company will harden and it makes us more determined than ever to defend our members’ pensions, jobs, service and achieve our objectives.
“Unless the company significantly shifts its position on a range of issues and we can quickly conclude a good agreement for our members then strike action is inevitable.”
Gill Furniss, the Labour MP, pledged her support for the union, informing the protest: “Despite the draconian laws imposed on workers, the CWU well surpassed the thresholds and sent a clear message to the company.”
A spokesperson for Royal Mail stated that the court injunction implied that any strike action before the procedures of the dispute resolution had been followed would be against the law.
“We will now make contact with the CWU as a matter of urgency to begin the process of external mediation. The mediation process will take close to Christmas to be completed, and may be longer. The first step is selecting a mediator acceptable to Royal Mail and the CWU from a panel that was agreed by both parties,” said the spokesperson.