The newly privatised Royal Mail postal service voted on Wednesday to strike for 24 hours on November 4 if they cannot reach agreement on pay and working conditions.
The vote, which the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said was four-to-one in favour, would be the first national strike at Royal Mail in almost four years.
The union ballot of around 115,000 of its members at Royal Mail and Parcelforce returned a 4-1 decision on a 63 per cent turnout in favour of industrial action, which is related to the recently completed privatisation of the service.
A Royal Mail spokesman said the company was “very disappointed” at the result of the ballot, adding: “Any action, or the threat of disruption, is damaging to our business, especially in the run up to Christmas, our busiest time.”
The CWU, however, added that it was hoping to agree a settlement in the next two weeks, which would avert the strike.
“We have said from the beginning that we want an agreement and we still do. The question now is whether this privatised Royal Mail still wants an agreement,” said Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary.
“We have offered the company a two-week period to reach an agreement and having already had many hours of negotiation, this is achievable if there is a will. The clock is ticking for both sides and we need Royal Mail to work to reach agreement before this deadline.
The situation of the postal service has changed. In the past four years competition has boomed, and while any disruption to the six-day-a-week universal service will be unwelcome to many, this time a lot of businesses have already made other plans.
“What we want is a groundbreaking, long-term, legally binding agreement that not only protects postal workers‘ job security, pay and pensions – but will also determine the strategy, principles and values of how the Royal Mail Group will operate as a private entity,” Ward said.
“This means there will be no further breakup of the company, no franchising of individual offices or delivery rounds, no introduction of a cheaper workforce on two-tier terms and conditions and no part-time industry.”
Phil Sumpter, who runs nationwide courier service Parcelgiants, says the strike could help workers secure a better financial deal; it would have little impact on preventing the privatisation-taking place.
“It’s great that the union is still fighting against the privitisation plans but to be honest, it’s going to make very little difference. Ministers are hell-bent on pressing ahead with their plans regardless of how it will affect the service and its future.”
That being said, the Direct Marketing Association, which represents the advertising mail industry, said the strike would damage “tens of thousands” of companies, charities and others.
Its executive director, Chris Combemale, said: “Commercial users account for the biggest percentage of Royal Mail’s turnover. Any disruption to service would quickly lead businesses to take their custom elsewhere, which is an outcome that would not benefit the postal workers that CWU represents.”
At the same time as announcing a 24 hour strike, the CWU today has announced they will carry out a second ballot asking workers to support action less than strike action, to carry out a boycott of competitors’ mail.
“On top of a strike, the union will seek a mandate from members to carry out the boycott of competitors’ mail,” Ward said. “In law, this needs a separate ballot and we will commence the procedures for this at the earliest opportunity. “
“The boycott will be used to supplement strike action. Royal Mail needs to reach an agreement with us now and avoid the consequences of these two types of action from postal workers.”
- Postal workers set to strike over privatisation (scotsman.com)
- Postal workers to stage strike over Royal Mail privatisation (news.stv.tv)
- Royal Mail workers to go on strike (bbc.co.uk)
- Royal Mail staff to strike on November 4 as row over privatisation escalates (standard.co.uk)