The CWU have announced that their members have voted three to one in favour of a national strike. There are no details as yet of actual dates involved, though union deputy general secretary Dave Ward has said it will be at least ten days before any stoppage takes place, to give Royal Mail a “final opportunity” to resolve the dispute. By law, the union must give seven days notice of any industrial action.
The strike, in protest at what the union say is Royal Mail management’s refusal to negotiate over changes in working practice, follows months of local and short-term action which has already brought chaos to the postal system. Delays in delivery of two weeks and more are being reported by some eBay sellers, and this will surely only get worse. Estimates of the number of items currently held up in the system vary wildly, from 5 million to 25 million.
Royal Mail has condemned the CWU’s action. Their Operations Director, Paul Tolhurst, earlier told the BBC earlier that, “the union is constantly demanding that we halt the changes we are making. But we have completed our changes for this year, so there is a clear opportunity for the union to stop striking.” Postal affairs minister Lord Young called the action “completely self-defeating”.
Industrial action taken so far has already damaged RM’s relationship with one of its biggest clients. Amazon has not yet cancelled a contract for delivery of parcels over 500g, as was reported in the Guardian yesterday; a spokesperson told The Times that they are working on contingency measures with other carriers: it’s understood that the Home Delivery Network will be picking up where Royal Mail fail. And one thing’s certain, Amazon will not be the only online retailer looking at delivery alternatives today. If, as reported, strike action threatens Christmas mail, many sellers – already financially squeezed and hoping that the holiday season will save their businesses – will have no alternative but to look elsewhere for reliable delivery services.
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