* Dispute resolution procedures must be followed -court
* CWU says it was “extremely disappointed” at ruling
* Royal Mail to contact CWU for external mediation (Adds Royal Mail, CWU statement, share movement)
By Noor Zainab Hussain
Oct 12 (Reuters) - Royal Mail blocked a strike by Communications Workers Union members on Thursday, winning a High Court injunction preventing action during the crucial pre-Christmas delivery period.
The union has been at odds with the British postal company over its plans to save billions of pounds on its pension contributions by ending a long-standing defined benefit scheme.
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.
“We want an agreement and will comply with the injunction to undertake further external mediation. 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.
The CWU said, however, that it would call a strike as soon as the mediation period closed if no agreement was reached.
Both sides have failed to agree on new pension terms since April, and CWU last week called a 48-hour strike that analysts said would have caused major disruptions to deliveries.
Royal Mail, which was privatised in 2013, is trying to modernise after years of underinvestment and has reduced layers of management, upgraded technology and cut its property bill.
However, it was left struggling last year as its domestic parcels business faced increased competition and as uncertainty following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union accelerated the rate of decline in its letters business.
Royal Mail shares, which have fallen 16.3 percent this year, were up 0.3 percent at 386.8 pence at 1521 GMT. (Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; editing by David Evans and Alexander Smith)