The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has said that national postal strikes could begin on Thursday 22 October if a “peace plan” to settle disputes about pay, modernisation and working conditions is not agreed before then. The action is supported by 75% of the CWU members
It is expected to take the form of rolling strikes, affecting different parts of the organisation on different days, rather than an all-out national strike but the effect will be to paralyse the whole operation and cause maximum disruption to households and businesses with the minimum loss of pay for the postal workers..
The CWU said it would give notice of the actual national strike dates on Thursday 15 October and, by law, it must wait one week before the industrial action begins - hence the expected start date of 22 October.
The union demands include:
- Royal Mail revealing its long-term business plan
- Modernisation changes being agreed rather than imposed by management
- Payments for workers being linked to the firm's success
- Bullying and harassment allegations being subject to an independent inquiry
Although there are around 30 other organisations offering postal services in the UK, the Royal Mail is the largest by a considerable margin. It delivers 99 per cent of all the letters in the UK, which means it handles 75 million letters each day.
However, the postal market in the UK is in decline. The volume of letters delivered by the Royal Mail has fallen from a record high of 84 million a day four years ago. Fewer letters are being delivered now than at the start of the decade and one of the biggest factors has been the rapid increase of internet access. Seventy per cent of homes in the UK are now online.
But perhaps more worrying for the Royal Mail is the move to online 'paperless' banking and other business transactions which make up the majority of its deliveries.
As part of the company's modernisation plans there have already been large cuts in the workforce and there is agreement between Royal Mail and the CWU that further job cuts will be needed to streamline the mail service. The strike is over the size of the cuts and how it will affect the working conditions and benefits of those workers who remain.
In addition to this the Royal Mail has a pension deficit that is getting worse every year. The pension scheme for 450,000 past and present staff has a deficit estimated to be around £8bn, which has been a factor in the government's failure to find a partner for its aborted part-privatisation of the Royal Mail.
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