Christmas deliveries in the United Kingdom could be affected this year after postal workers decided to strike for the first time yesterday since the business was privatised four years ago.
Why is a strike being threatened?
The industrial action that is being organised centres around a bitter pay and pensions dispute. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) stated that it was sparked by Royal Mail‘s “attack on the pension rights of hard-working postmen and women” as well as its “refusal” to engage over working hours, pay, future job security and the need to grow and improve the service.
When is the strike likely to occur?
If the strike goes ahead, it could pose a threat to pre-Christmas deliveries. Workers could walk out in late November on “Black Friday” – the day when most retailers begin with seasonal pre-Yuletide sales. The rumoured two-day strike could happen on the 24th and 25th of November.
However, Royal Mail stated: “There are no grounds for industrial action. We want to reach an agreement.”
It believes that the dispute is subject to legally binding contractual resolution procedures which are possible to last until Christmas and maybe even beyond.
“These dispute resolution procedures must be followed. The union cannot take industrial action until they have been completed,” said Royal Mail.
Are all the postal workers supporting the strike?
The CWU said that 73.7 percent of its 110,000 members voted in yesterday’s strike ballot, with 89 percent supporting a strike. The union said that its postal executive would meet to work out the possible strike dates later this week.
What’s behind the row?
The dispute has been building since Royal Mail announced that it would close its current defined benefit pension scheme in March 2018. The company insisted that if it did not, its current annual contribution of £400m per year would eventually increase to £1.26bn.
Royal Mail has consequently offered workers new defined contribution-based schemes with the intention of keeping its contributions at around £400m. All have been denied.
Is Royal Mail playing fair with workers?
Hargreaves Lansdown’s senior pension analyst, Nathan Long, said that the decision of Royal Mail to close its DB scheme is in line with the attempts of many employers to cap the uncertainty of future pension payments.
“Two replacement schemes have been tabled. Both offer generous pension contributions in comparison to most employers,” said Long. “While the pension benefits are undoubtedly being watered down, a first-class retirement is still available for staff who maintain membership throughout their working life.”
What is the union view?
The CWU general secretary, Dave Ward, thinks that Royal Mail is letting workers down. He stated: “Our members are under attack. They are being asked to work faster, harder and cheaper while losing benefits. This has nothing to do with driving growth and innovation. It is all about a lack of forward thinking and asset stripping.”
The CWU’s deputy general secretary, postal, Terry Pullinger, added that: “This massive failure in trust has created a break down in relationships and a toxic environment where working together to solve difficult problems has become almost impossible.”