Royal Mail staff have voted in favour of industrial action, paving the way for the biggest strike of the summer following a dispute over pay and working conditions.
The Communication Workers Union said on Tuesday that more than 115,000 postal workers — almost 98 per cent of its members — had voted to strike, on a turnout of 78 per cent.
It would be the biggest strike the company has faced since 2009 and marks an escalation in the wave of industrial action spreading across the UK, as rail workers plan further nationwide walkouts and public sector unions prepare to ballot their members over below-inflation pay deals.
“This represents the biggest mandate for strike action ever reached since the 2016 Trade Union Act was implemented,” the CWU said. “The union is demanding that Royal Mail group enters into negotiations to secure a straight, no-strings pay increase for workers.”
“It is also a vote of no confidence in Royal Mail’s chief executive and board, who should seriously consider their futures in our industry,” general secretary Dave Ward said.
The CWU, which is also leading the first strike action in 35 years at BT Group, balloted its 115,000 members after Royal Mail Group made a 2 per cent pay award without agreement with the union.
The CWU said this represented a “dramatic real-terms wage cut” for employees who worked through the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Royal Mail’s position is that any further increase in pay would be conditional on staff accepting changes to working conditions to help the company compete with lower-cost rivals — including making Sunday shifts part of core hours and keeping operations running later at night.
The company had previously offered an additional 1.5 per cent pay rise, contingent on these changes, with a further non-consolidated 2 per cent bonus linked to hitting performance targets.
Royal Mail has argued that it needs to become more competitive because it is no longer benefiting from the surge in online shopping linked to Covid lockdowns or the flow of business delivering NHS Covid test kits that accounted for 7 per cent of its parcels business last year.
“We are disappointed that CWU members have voted in favour of industrial action,” a Royal Mail spokesperson said. “We offered a deal worth up to 5.5 per cent for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years, which the CWU rejected.”
In May, Royal Mail said group revenue for the year to March was 0.6 per cent higher year on year at £12.7bn, driven by the performance of parcel sorting subsidiary GLS. However, revenue from its UK postal service dropped 1.6 per cent after pandemic curbs were eased.
The company announced that £400mn had been returned to shareholders, via a special dividend and share buyback, after a surge in profits because of the online shopping boom.
A separate strike by Royal Mail managers — led by the union Unite and initially planned for this week — has been called off after Royal Mail made new proposals on jobs, pay and conditions that will form the basis of further negotiations.