Fears of post strike chaos at Christmas
Workers plan first action in decade
‘We are in a fight to the death’
ROYAL Mail is facing its first national postal strike in a decade after staff voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action.
The dispute – over job security and employment terms and conditions – raises the threat of walkout in the run-up to Christmas or during Black Friday sales.
Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) backed action by 97 per cent in a turnout of almost 76 per cent.
The CWU claimed Royal Mail was not sticking to an agreement reached last year covering a wide range of issues, including plans to reduce the working week and job security. Industrial relations at the company have worsened this year, with widespread unofficial strikes breaking out virtually every week.
Terry Pullinger, the CWU’s deputy general secretary, his members were facing the ‘fight of our lives’.
The union said the result represented the largest ‘ yes’ vote for national industrial action since the passing of the Trade Union Act in 2016. It added that the prospect of the first national postal strike in a decade now ‘looms large’.
Strikes in 2009 over job losses caused a backlog of more than 50million letters across a single weekend in October. Further action planned over the festive period that year was called off, preventing mass disruption to Christmas deliveries.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: ‘This result sends a clear message to Royal Mail Group – our members will not stand by as you rip up their terms and conditions and destroy the service they give to the public and businesses of the UK.
‘We would urge Royal Mail Group to now enter serious negotiations with this union. We also call on the public to get behind this dispute and your postal workers.
‘We are very proud of our members today. They have stood by their union in record numbers and given hope to workers across the nation.’
Mr Ward added that Royal Mail chief executive Rico Back should now consider his position following the ‘ historic’ vote. The union’s executive will decide the next move, but Mr Ward said: ‘We will look at what gives us the most leverage.’ He said the CWU was defending the postal service as well as members’ jobs.
A mediation process already in place ends on Friday, then there are three weeks before a ‘parting of the waves’.
Mr Pullinger said: ‘We represent decent, hard-working people who don’t deserve what is happening to them and the service.
‘There is something seriously wrong with the way the Royal Mail is being run. When we make a deal we stick to it.’
He claimed up to 50,000 jobs were at risk in the Royal Mail, as well as in Parcelforce under plans to separate it from the postal business. He accused the chief executive of sacking managers and replacing them with ‘carpet baggers’.
He added: ‘We are in a fight to the death. We built it – we would rather smash it to bits than hand it over.’
Royal Mail said it was ‘very disappointed’ that a ballot had been held. A statement said: ‘A ballot result for industrial action does not necessarily mean there will be industrial action. We are still in mediation with the CWU.
‘We want to reach agreement. There are no grounds for industrial action. [It] is damaging for our business and undermines the trust of our customers. Royal Mail wants to transform to meet our customers’ changing needs as we post fewer letters and receive more parcels.’
Royal Mail said it was honouring the 2018 agreement, awarding two pay increases of 5 and 2 per cent, granting the first hour’s reduction in a shorter working week, and joining the CWU to lobby the Government for a new pension scheme.
The company said it had also reached a negotiated agreement with Unite on a two-year pay deal for junior and middle-managers.