Last week Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Dave Ward warned that unless Royal Mail significantly shifted their position on pensions, a shorter working week, a redesign of the company’s pipeline and the extension of current agreements then a ballot on strike action will be held early in September.
This is bad news for all concerned, but it appears unlikely that if a ballot takes place that there won’t be enough votes from the 110,000 posties in the CWU for strikes to take place.
Royal Mail face a number of issues as the carry on their modenisation program and face the reality of running a business instead of effectively being a government department.
On pensions, it’s pretty obvious that hardly anyone is in a final salary pension scheme these days. Most employees are on fixed contribution schemes as they’re more affordable and yes, they do offer less security in retirement.
Pay is an interesting one as Dave Ward points out that whilst Posties are denied massive pay rises Royal Mail has paid out £770m in dividends to private shareholders. That’s the result of being a publicly traded company – share holders only invest if they see a return and plenty of other workers in both the public and private sector haven’t had a big pay rise in years either.
The working week is a crucial change for Royal Mail. Times are changing and ever more consumers are demanding next day delivery of items purchased ever later in the day. There was once a time that First Class post meant before breakfast and Second Class post was delivered around lunch time. Today, with many out at work, it doesn’t really matter what time the post arrives but what does matter is what time posties start on their rounds. The later in the day that rounds start the easier it is for Royal Mail to accept next day parcel deliveries and get them to their destination the following day.
Royal Mail need to offer businesses later cut of times for collections and it still takes time for these packages to whizz around the country. Sadly for posties, who have habitually started work early in the day and been home by early afternoon, this does mean that their working hours are likely to change.
Perhaps the easiest for Royal Mail and the Unions to agree on would be an extension to the current legal agreements, but that will only come after all other issues are settled.
Strike Ballot Timetable
It is expected that the CWU Executive will meet on Tuesday the 5th of September and it’s hard to see a circumstances that means they won’t enact their strike ballot timetable. The good news is that no strikes will be called before October, the bad news is that it’s highly likely that the CWU will go for maximum disruption and call strikes around Black Friday and the run up to Christmas.
- 16th August 2017: Letters went out for CWU Membership Check
- 30th August 2017: Information Returned
- 5th September 2017: CWU Executive Meet
- 6th September 2017: Issue Notification
- 14th September 2017: Ballot Opens
- 3rd October 2017: Ballot Closes
- 3rd October 2017: Result Announced
In all this there are two things worth remembering. First is that we all rely on the Royal Mail and our posties do a fantastic job. The second is that posties, whilst carrying a huge responsibility for guarding our mail, they are largely what might be termed unskilled workers and they do in reality enjoy a pretty decent salary and benefits. No one would deny that they might deserve more, but strikes will damage their reputation and the Royal Mails business.
However much online seller and offline businesses may support posties strike action, once they decide to move their parcels to another carrier they may never return to Royal Mail. They may discover that myHermes or Pass My Parcel or Yodel or any of dozens of other carriers can fill the gap and they may decide that the upheaval of moving back to Royal Mail simply isn’t worth the hassle.
Less parcels means less money, less investment and ultimately a poorer future for posties and a degraded service for the rest of the country.