Royal Mail workers vote for strike action
Rachel Muller-Heyndyk, October 16, 2019
The Communication Workers Union claims Royal Mail is breaking the "progressive" agreement on pay, pensions and working hours reached last year
Royal Mail staff have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in a dispute over job security and terms and conditions of employment, raising the prospect of the first national postal strike in a decade.
More than 97% of members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) backed a strike, with 76% of its members turning out to vote.
The CWU said an agreement reached with management last year to raise pay and reform pensions is not being honoured.
Strike dates have yet to be announced, but the union may choose to target Black Friday and the Christmas post. This could seriously affect deliveries as Royal Mail says it has 51% of the UK parcel market.
Terry Pullinger, deputy general secretary of the CWU, accused Royal Mail of breaking a "progressive" agreement that it reached with the union a year ago.
He added: "Our members take honour seriously and have voted to fight for that agreement against those who now seek to break up the great British postal service in the interest of fast-track profit and greed."
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.”
Strikes at the privatised postal service were averted last year after Royal Mail agreed to raise pay, reform pensions and reduce weekly working hours from 39 to 35 by 2022, subject to productivity improvements.
However, the CWU has claimed that the deal is "under threat" under recently-appointed chief executive Rico Back. Employees have expressed fears that the organisation could be heading towards gig economy practices after it purchased eCourier, which classifies its couriers as independent contractors meaning they miss out on holiday and sick pay.
Ward said that Back should now consider his position following the “historic” vote.
Royal Mail said it is abiding by the agreement and has awarded two pay rises since last year. It said it is “very disappointed” by the CWU's decision to ballot for industrial action and stressed that the result of the ballot would not guarantee strike action.
“A ballot result for industrial action does not necessarily mean there will be industrial action. We are still in mediation with the CWU. Under our Dispute Resolution Procedure we are committed to reaching a resolution. No industrial action can be taken, and formal notification of industrial action cannot be given, before the conclusion of the Dispute Resolution Procedure,” they said.
“We want to reach agreement. There are no grounds for industrial action. Industrial action or the threat of it is damaging for our business and undermines the trust of our customers.”
Royal Mail added that the organisation needs to change to keep up with customer needs: “Royal Mail wants to transform to meet our customers’ changing needs as we post fewer letters and receive more parcels. The transformation is about ensuring a more sustainable company, a fairer working environment, the best terms and conditions in our industry and a contemporary universal service.”