Posties have voted to go on strike over Black Friday and Christmas in a dispute over pensions, pay and conditions.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced on Tuesday that a majority of its 111,000 members in Royal Mail had voted for industrial action, the first since the company was privatised four years ago.
The union said 73.7% of its members had turned out to vote, with 89% of them backing a walkout. Its executive will meet this week to determine any potential strike dates, which are likely to come before the end of the year.
The industrial action, planned at the busiest time of the year, will go ahead, the CWU has warned, if no agreement is reached over pay, pensions and drastic changes are made to how mail is delivered in the UK.
Officials say the Yes vote of 89.1% on a high turnout of 73.7% shows that postal workers completely, and emphatically, reject the vision of the company held by chief executive Moya Greene and the Royal Mail board.
The CWU Union has voted in favour of strike action which means posties could down tool over the Black Friday weekend and at Christmas if pay and pension talks fail (Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
The CWU union says it is determined to secure a fair deal for workers on pay, pension and the future of the service.
Plymouth and East Cornwall Branch secretary, Ralph Ferrett, said: “We have no desire for our members to be taking strike action. Our local union want a deal that protects our members jobs, pensions, and the service we provide to the public.
“Our union are committed to reaching a deal, but we cannot, and will not accept attacks on our members or the service. Strike action is a last resort but it will be happening if Royal Mail are not prepared to come to an agreement.”
Do you think postal workers should go on strike at Christmas over pay and pension?
0+ VOTES SO FAR
YES – they deserve fair pay, a good pension and decent working conditions NO – how selfish! How dare they jeopardise my buying frenzy and Amazon orders?
The industrial action comes amid a flurry of union activity this autumn as public sector and health workers are also discussing the possibilities of industrial action.
Royal Mail said contractual dispute resolution procedures agreed to by the company and the CWU meant the dispute would be escalated to independent external mediation, “which we expect will take close to Christmas to be completed, and maybe longer”.
The firm added: “We believe these dispute resolution procedures must be followed. The union cannot take industrial action until they have been completed.”
The CWU Union has voted in favour of strike action which means posties could down tool over the Black Friday weekend and at Christmas if pay and pension talks fail (Image: ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images)
The CWU announced last month that it would be balloting members who worked for Royal Mail group and claimed there were plans to worsen terms and conditions of existing employees and introduce a two-tier workforce.
However, it is the pensions row that is at the heart of the dispute, after Royal Mail announced it wanted to end the defined-benefit scheme.
In April the company announced that the pension plan, which has 90,000 members and assets of £7.4bn, was in surplus, but said the scheme would soon become unaffordable.
The company, which was privatised in October 2013, pays £400m a year into the fund, but it says this could rise to more than £1bn in 2018.
The scheme, which was closed to new members in 2008, guarantees a pension based on a postal worker’s average salary. Royal Mail is thought to have plans to replace it with a less generous defined-contribution scheme.
In a move that may be copied by other unions, the vote followed a campaign by the CWU called the “four pillars”, which calls for a decent wage in retirement, a shorter working week, a redesign of the company’s methods and an extension of current agreements.
Inside a Royal Mail sorting office. Royal Mail’s 190,000 full time and part time staff handle 83 million items of post a day in the United Kingdom. (Image: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Plymouth and East Cornwall Branch chairman, Glenn Johns, added: “If Royal Mail want to prevent a damaging strike in the run up to Christmas they must now take seriously securing a deal with the workforce who have comprehensively rejected their vision for the future of the postal service.”
Royal Mail said it was operating in the most competitive delivery markets in the world, with 16 major competitors, including Amazon, which handles one in 10 parcel deliveries.
Letter volumes have declined 40% in the past 10 years as people increasingly prefer email. Royal Mail says it has spent £1.5bn on upgrading its IT systems to cope with the new world of technology. After 12 months in the job, postal workers earn £22,764 a year.
Royal Mail said that under its proposed scheme, someone aged 50, earning £25,000 a year and retiring at 65 would retire on an annual pension of £12,300 and a tax-free lump sum of £81,800, which it added compares favourably with most other retirement deals.
Royal Mail’s 190,000 full time and part time staff handle 83 million items of post a day in the United Kingdom. (Image: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A spokesman for the Royal Mail said: “We are very disappointed by the ballot result, which did not necessarily mean a strike would take place.
“There are no grounds for industrial action. We want to reach agreement. Royal Mail is committed to further talks as a matter of urgency, to reach agreement with the CWU.”
Source: Cornwall Live