No deal after seven months of talks with union – festive period strikes go ahead
Sadly for the greeting card industry, the “best and final offer” from Royal Mail hasn’t been enough to stop postal workers taking further industrial action today, 24 November, and Black Friday tomorrow, disrupting mail and parcels at the busiest time.
The 48-hour strike and 10 further day-long stoppages due before Christmas were confirmed after seven months of talks between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers’ Union – including the past four weeks using the conciliation service ACAS – ended on Tuesday, 22 November.
The company said it had made its “best and final offer” and accused the union of “holding Christmas to ransom”, but the CWU claimed the offer would “spell the end of Royal Mail as we know it”.
In a statement released yesterday the company said the revised offer had extensive improvements with an enhanced 9% pay rise over 18 months for staff, a commitment to making Sunday working voluntary, and there would make no compulsory redundancies before March next year.
“We want to reach a deal, but time is running out for the CWU to change their position and avoid further damaging strike action,” Royal Mail’s chief executive Simon Thompson commented. “Talks have lasted for seven months and we have made numerous improvements and two pay offers, which would now see up to a 9% pay increase over 18 months alongside a host of other enhancements. This is our best and final offer.
“Negotiations involve give and take, but it appears that the CWU’s approach is to just take.”
The company said further deterioration in its financial position caused by industrial action will “rapidly make the pay offer unaffordable and it may need to be withdrawn”, and Simon added that the ongoing strikes has already cost the firm more than £100million, adding to Royal Mail’s losses so far this year.
He said: “In a materially loss-making company, with every additional day of strike action we are facing the difficult choice of whether we spend our money on pay and protecting jobs, or on the cost of strikes.
“The CWU’s planned strike action is holding Christmas to ransom for our customers, businesses and families across the country, and is putting their own members’ jobs at risk.”
However, with 115,000 employees backing the CWU, the union’s statement claims the latest offer is a “wholly-inadequate, non-backdated” 3.5% pay increase, will turn Royal Mail group into a “gig economy-style courier” reliant on casual labour, involve thousands of “inevitable” compulsory redundances, will introduce tech to monitor workers every minute, and has later start and finish times leading to the abandonment of the morning delivery period.
The CWU wants an improved 18-month pay deal including all workers, a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, a review of the relationship between the union and the company, and “an alternative business strategy that would see Royal Mail Group use its competitive advantage to grow as a company, instead of becoming a gig economy parcel employer”.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “We are disappointed that, instead of reaching a compromise to avoid major disruption, Royal Mail have chosen to pursue such an aggressive strategy.
“We will not accept that 115,000 Royal Mail workers – the people who kept us connected during the pandemic, and made millions in profit for bosses and shareholders – take such a devastating blow to their livelihoods.
“These proposals spell the end of Royal Mail as we know it, and its degradation from a national institution into an unreliable, Uber-style gig economy company. Make no mistake about it: British postal workers are facing an Armageddon moment.”
Top: Festive CWU pickets take industrial action today