Postal strikes to affect Christmas build-up

Today’s stoppage starts 19 days of industrial action as union escalates Royal Mail dispute


In bad news for the greetings sector, today’s Royal Mail strike is the start of 19 days of industrial action across the whole network set to affect the busiest part of the year for the card industry as Christmas approaches.

With a background of Royal Mail saying it lost £1million a day in the first quarter, but the Communications Workers’ Union claiming the “rogue big business” posted record profits, a further 48-hour stoppage began this morning, 30 September.

CWU members are manning picket lines at delivery offices across the UK in the walkout by 115,000 workers and the stoppage follows thousands of Post Office staff striking on Wednesday, 28 September, also in a pay dispute.

Above: Post office workers on strike on Wednesday
Above: Post office workers on strike on Wednesday

In a major escalation of the action, further walkouts are thought to be planned on 13, 20, 25 October, and 28 November; plus delivery on 4, 10, 16, 25 November and 2 December; processing, distribution, international, collections and admin on 3, 9, 15, 25 November and 1 December; and network on 2, 8, 14, 23, and 30 November.

In a statement the CWU said: “The action, which is a mixture of single days and rolling action across Royal Mail Group’s network, will have a dramatic impact, and will cover peak mail periods such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas build-up.

“The move follows a threat centred around the outrageous decision by Royal Mail Group’s senior management to withdraw from major national agreements, push ahead with vicious cuts to workers terms and conditions and completely sideline the union.”

Royal Mail’s stance is that there had been five months of talks, including three dispute resolution procedures, but no agreement has been reached with the CWU so it has written to the union proposing talks should be taken to the arbitration service ACAS, and informed them it wants to modernise the ways of working with them.

Above: More of today’s pickets, clockwise from top left, at Tadcaster, Pontefract, Barking, Colchester, and Glasgow
Above: More of today’s pickets, clockwise from top left, at Tadcaster, Pontefract, Barking, Colchester, and Glasgow

As part of the modernisation Royal Mail said it will “review or serve notice on a number of historic agreements and policies which are currently being used by the CWU to frustrate transformation, and intends to move to a more modern industrial relations framework designed to make the business more agile, and able to compete more effectively”.

The group added: “As previously announced, Royal Mail made a loss of £92m in the first quarter, equivalent to approximately £1m a day. Royal Mail needs to adapt much faster to adapt to changing customer demands in a highly competitive market. The CWU has blocked any meaningful discussion on the change agenda the company has set out, and has not put forward any viable alternatives that will fund further pay increases.

“We want to work with CWU on what new, modern, ways of working between the two will look like. These changes are important steps towards modernising the industrial relations framework. They will allow Royal Mail to move from a system where the CWU has many powers to veto and block change, to a more consultative relationship.

Above: Royal Mail wants to modernise as it’s losing £1m a day
Above: Royal Mail wants to modernise as it’s losing £1m a day

“The business can then move forward on its change agenda to remain competitive for the long term, a necessary step to securing Royal Mail’s future.”

The CWU said the 2022/23 pay offer had been increased from an initial 2% with a £250 cash lump sum to 5% with a £500 cash lump sum, but added this is still some considerable way behind current inflation levels.

On the new strike action, which is mandated through the union ballot on pay rather than the one relating to terms and conditions, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “This is a significant announcement, but it is one which matches the level of anger our members feel at the way Royal Mail Group has treated them.

“The CEO of Royal Mail Group, Simon Thompson, is treating postal workers as if they are stupid. These are the same people that have kept the country connected and returned Royal Mail Group to record profit.

“Postal workers across the UK now face the fight of their lives to save their jobs and the service they provide to every household and business in the UK. If Royal Mail Group are allowed to get away with this then it sends a green light to every rogue big business in the UK.”

Top: CWU pickets at Sunderland today, 30 September

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