National strike looms after Royal Mail vote

A union has not ruled out the prospect of national strikes by postal workers in the run-up to Christmas after Royal Mail staff voted “overwhelmingly” in favour.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said the ballot among 110,000 staff backed walkouts by 89% on a turnout of 73%.

Any strike would represent the first at Royal Mail since its controversial privatisation four years ago.

The union said it would be legal as the result met the 50% turnout threshold needed for industrial action to go ahead under controversial new Government strike legislation.

It was to decide its next move at a strategy meeting later this week but said the vote indicated a clear feeling among its members that bosses had lost the trust of its front-line staff and should step aside.

The dispute centres on the closure of Royal Mail’s final salary pension scheme to new entrants and also separate rows over pay and delivery office closures.

Royal Mail postal worker sorts mail at the Glasgow Mail Centre© Getty Royal Mail postal worker sorts mail at the Glasgow Mail Centre

The CWU says its list of gripes with the company are all linked to its privatisation – accusing bosses of cost-cutting and asset-stripping to satisfy shareholders.

Deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said: “This ballot result is hugely significant and demonstrates a strength of feeling that can only be translated as a massive vote of no confidence in the managerial leadership of the Royal Mail Group and the direction that they advocate.

“Any sense of vocational spirit and working together with management has been lost in a climate of fear and insecurity.

“This massive failure in trust has created a breakdown in relationships and a toxic environment where working together to solve difficult problems has become almost impossible.

“The managerial leadership has failed and should resign or be sacked.”

Royal Mail has insisted there are no grounds for industrial action.

Ahead of the ballot result, the company said it remained committed to finding a deal on pensions and pay – with offers still on the table.

“Alongside Royal Mail’s proposal for the best pension scheme in the industry – and one that compares favourably to other large employers – we are making a very good offer on pay.

“Under its proposals, Royal Mail would continue to provide the best pay and terms and conditions in the industry.

“Many competitors pay around the national living wage. Royal Mail pays 45%-50% more than this.”

It added: “Industrial action – or the threat of it – undermines the trust of our customers. Industrial action makes it harder for Royal Mail to pay for industry-leading terms and conditions.

The company also pointed out that a strike would be self-defeating for staff as they owned a fifth of Royal Mail shares.

The result was announced just after financial markets had closed for the day – with the value of Royal Mails shares already down almost 17% in the year to date, partly reflecting strike concerns.

Rival Parcelhero was quick to jump on Royal Mail’s woes, warning any strike action could “cancel Christmas”.

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Panos Sfaelos

Journalist - Chief Editor

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