Royal Mail has won a legal injunction blocking the first mass walk-out by postal workers for eight years. Instead the company's actions will have the complete opposite effect.
The postal services company successfully argued that the Communication Workers Union (CWU) - whose members voted in favour of industrial action -, had not entered into a dispute resolution mechanism involving an external mediator, as required under a prior agreement.
Royal Mail said: "We are very committed to working closely with the CWU in order to reach agreement as a matter of priority".
The High Court in London ruled that dispute resolution procedures must be followed before any industrial action, Royal Mail said in a statement, adding it would contact the CWU as a matter of urgency to begin the process of external mediation, which could take until Christmas or beyond. It gave the union until the following Monday to withdraw the action or it would lodge an application with the High Court.
The CWU has called for a 48-hour strike from 11am next Thursday, October 19.
Locally, it will impact on all postal deliveries and collections in the BA and SN postcode areas covering Bath and Swindon and the surrounding areas. The turnout was 73.7 per cent.
The ballot is part of a flurry of union activity this autumn as public sector and health workers discuss the possibility of industrial action.
Royal Mail says the CWU is in breach of its contractual obligation not to call for strike action until the external mediation process, which began on October 5, is exhausted.
The CWU has accused Royal Mail of carrying out a "relentless" programme of cost-cutting to maximise short-term profits and shareholder returns.
Afterwards the union said it was "extremely disappointed" at the ruling and claimed that strike action was inevitable without a major change in position by the company.
"But sooner rather than later Royal Mail Group will have to confront the harsh reality that they are completely out of touch with the views of its workforce", CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said.
"Postal workers delivered a massive "Yes" vote for strike action and we are determined to take whatever steps are necessary to deliver an agreement that will protect and enhance our members' terms and conditions and improve the range of services on offer to customers", he said.