The clock is ticking.
Royal Mail has now set a deadline for the Communication Workers Union (CWU) to call off its planned 48-hour strike from 19 October over a pensions and pay row by noon on Monday 9 October or face legal action.
In its latest statement, the firm said it had written to the CWU invoking the legally-binding external mediation process, requesting that the union withdraw its notification of industrial action.
Royal Mail said:
If CWU does not withdraw its notice of strike action by 12 noon Monday 9 October, Royal Mail will lodge an application with the High Court for an injunction to prevent industrial action.
The company believes that any strike action before the dispute resolution procedures have been followed would constitute unlawful strike action.
The union however, said yesterday it had adhered to the agreement and "exhausted that agreement".
The CWU argued that representatives from mediators firm Acas attended the months of previous negotiations and therefore satisfied the requirements of the dispute resolution procedures.
The CWU's deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said: "We believe that we have kept the talks going. These talks have been going on for over 18 months and if there was going to be some sort of external mediation process it should have been way before now. In fact, we have indeed used external mediation in these talks, which the business would have paid for as well."
The union is planning action due to a dispute related to pension changes, pay and jobs.
Royal Mail wants to shut its final salary pension scheme, which it says will cost £1.3bn to keep open. It has proposed an alternative that guarantees a minimum payout.
The process Royal Mail says needs to happen before strikes take place
a) Formal notice of a referral to external mediation from one party to the other;
b) The appointment of an external mediator through the mutually agreed process and;
c) A comprehensive mediation process which includes the mediator preparing a detailed report, including recommendations for both parties.