Postal workers are on the verge of a historic strike after a dispute over pensions, pay and conditions that could grind Royal Mail to a halt before Christmas.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced on Tuesday that a majority of its 111,000 members in Royal Mail had voted for industrial action, the first since the company was privatised four years ago.
The union said 73.7% of its members had turned out to vote, with 89% of them backing a walkout. Its executive will meet this week to determine any potential strike dates, which are likely to come before the end of the year.
The vote was a major test for the union after the introduction of the government’s controversial Trade Union Act, which requires strike ballots to have a 50% turnout.
It comes amid a flurry of union activity this autumn as public sector and health workers discuss the possibilities of industrial action.
Dave Ward, the CWU general secretary, said: “This is an important moment and we can go forward into any action knowing we have secured the numbers required. We have seen an unprecedented response from our members, and we are taking a lot of confidence from this result.
“Our members are under attack. They are being asked to work faster, harder and cheaper while losing benefits. This has nothing to do with driving growth and innovation. It is all about a lack of forward thinking and asset stripping.”
The CWU announced last month that it would be balloting members who work for Royal Mail group and claimed there were plans to worsen terms and conditions of existing employees and introduce a two-tier workforce.
However, it is the pensions row that is at the heart of the dispute after Royal Mail announced it wanted to end the defined-benefit scheme.
In April, the company announced that the pension plan, which has 90,000 members and assets of £7.4bn, was in surplus, but said the scheme would soon become unaffordable.
The company, which was privatised in October 2013, pays £400m a…