Royal Mail strike threat diminishes as warring parties edge towards accord

 
Oliver Gill
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Royal Mail announced plans to close its pension scheme almost a year ago

The chances of a mass walkout by Royal Mail workers are diminishing this evening after a "philosophical agreement" was struck between the warring parties.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) was first to break ranks, providing an update on weeks of secret talks to break the deadlock over Royal Mail's changes to pensions, pay and working practices.

Royal Mail's main union, which represents 110,000 postal workers, was forced to back down from a 48-hour strike in mid-October after the High Court ruled it must first hold mediated talks with the 501-year-old firm.

CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said in a short video this evening there had been a "fundamental change" during the latest round of talks

"We are making considerable progress," he said.

We genuinely believe we are on course to achieving an agreement.

I feel that the conversation now is in a fundamentally far better than it was before we balloted

"So as we sit here today we have, I think, a far more philosophical agreement with the employer."

Read more: Progress on Royal Mail strike talks to be revealed

Royal Mail announced earlier this year it would close its mammoth final salary pension scheme in March 2018 after estimating costs would spiral to more than £1bn a year if it did not.

The CWU announcement this evening indicated progress had been made in ensuring postal workers have a level of certainty on final salary pension payouts.

On pay and working conditions Pullinger said there was work to be done but was optimistic common ground could be found. He appeared buoyed that constructive talks have continued since mediator Professor Lynette Harris, the deputy chair of the government's Central Arbitration Committee, left before parties last week to file a report on the situation.

Royal Mail declined to comment this evening though is understood to preparing a full response tomorrow.

Read more: Royal Mail is held back by out-of-date red tape

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