Royal Mail workers have overwhelmingly voted to take strike action over jobs, pay and pensions with a turnout of 73.7% - easily overcoming the 50% threshold for industrial action to be legal.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced on Tuesday afternoon that a ballot of 111,082 members saw 89.1% vote in favour of a national strike.
It is the first time Royal Mail workers have for industrial action since the organisation was privatised four years ago.
At the heart of the dispute is the firm’s plan to change its £9.8bn pension scheme to one that gives staff a cash lump sum, as well as moves to cut 3,000 jobs a year.
The ballot was a test of the government’s Trade Union Act which requires unions to achieve a 50% turnout threshold in strike ballots for them to be legal.
Dave Ward, the general secretary of the CWU union, said: “This is a watershed dispute, we are going to defend our members’ pensions, jobs and their pay”.
Ellie Long, a Parcelforce employee, told a press conference in Manchester that the union had run the “most effective industrial campaign ever”. She added: “In every corner of the UK our members have risen up.”
Royal Mail has insisted its reforms of the pension scheme will still give staff “by far the best in the delivery industry”, but leaving it unreformed would add hugely to costs.
Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership has been under pressure to reveal whether it would back a strike if the 50% threshold was not reached.
However Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell predicted last week the party would not be put in that position. “everyone is going to vote for strikes,” he said.
And earlier today, workers on South Western Railway voted heavily in favour of striking in the dispute over the role of guards on trains.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union backed walkouts by 4-1 on a turnout of 76%, well above the 50% threshold.