It would appear that CWU postal workers will walk out on strike. The strike is planned to start at noon on the 19th of October for 48 hours when Royal Mail workers will down tools for the first time since 2009. The industrial action follows the ballot where 89.1% of CWU postal workers voted in favour of industrial action and will impact mail for three days, from lunchtime on Thursday 19th October through to Saturday 21th October 2017.
“We are determined to take whatever steps are necessary to deliver an agreement that will protect and enhance our member’s terms and conditions and improve the range of services on offer to customer”.
– CWU general secretary Dave Ward
Royal Mail dispute that the strike will be legal and a spokesperson told us “We believe any strike action before the dispute resolution procedures have been followed would be unlawful strike action“.
The External Mediation Process
- Formal notice of a referral to external mediation from one party to the other;
- The appointment of an external mediator through the mutually agreed process and;
- A comprehensive mediation process which includes the mediator preparing a detailed report, including recommendations for both parties.
None of these processes have happened yet and it’s likely Royal Mail may take legal action to ban the strike although that will just infuriate the CWU further.
In 2013, Royal Mail and the CWU committed to a legally binding agreement the ‘Agenda for Growth’. This agreement contains contractual dispute resolution procedures. Both sides are required to follow them once instigated. They escalate to independent external mediation, which Royal Mail say they’d expect will take close to Christmas to be completed, and may be longer.
“Royal Mail will be writing to the CWU invoking the external mediation process under the dispute resolution procedures in the Agenda for Growth. These legally-binding dispute resolution procedures were set up as a vehicle to resolve industrial disputes. We wish to use them to do just that. Royal Mail will use all legal options at its disposal, including applying to the High Court for an injunction to prevent industrial action”.
– Royal Mail
Sadly it appears very unlikely that strikes won’t take place, even if they proposed action on the 19th October is called off. Dave Ward of the CWU has described the negotiations as a “Watershed Dispute” saying that it will determine the future of the postal service. The union seem less interested in negotiating a deal that will work for posties and instead more focused on a wider agenda which objects to everything including the privatisation of the Royal Mail.
Regardless of what happens, this is going to be terrible news for the Royal Mail. Whilst we have every sympathies with posties if they feel that they’re not getting paid fairly, we’re equally as sympathetic to the businesses who their action threatens to destroy. Many businesses will simply stick two fingers up to the CWU industrial action and take their ecommerce shipments to other providers of which there are plenty.
If you ship Royal Mail Tracked 24 or Tracked 48 there should be little difficulty making alternative carrier arrangements. If you use large letters then finding alternatives may require some compromise on price or service speed but for those with the lightest large letters or standard letter post there is little alternative without a huge price increase and you may be forced to sit out the strikes and lose money.
Public sympathy for previous Royal Mail strikes
It’s worth noting that in the past the general public were remarkably tolerant of Royal Mail strikes right up until the last strikes in 2009 when support was muted at best and mainly non-existent. The country simply got fed up with being held to ransom on what turned out to be postal strikes every second year and just wanted their Christmas present purchases to be delivered.
In today’s economic environment where few workers have had a significant pay rise in years and everyone is feeling the economic pinch, I’m predicting that support from the public isn’t going to overwhelming side with the posties. I may be wrong, but people will be looking at how if impacts their own businesses or whether it delays items they purchase online and they won’t be impressed.
The likely impact of strikes on Royal Mail
For the Royal Mail strikes could be devastating. If many businesses move their parcels to myHermes, Pass my Parcel, Yodel, DPD, or other carriers there is a strong likelihood that they’ll never return to Royal Mail. They may decide they like the cost model, the service or the price and why would they return to a service that saw industrial action at the busiest time of the year?
Dave Ward is right, this dispute will determine the future of the postal service. Unfortunately the Union appear to be hell bent on ‘smashing it to bits‘ (in the words of as Deputy General secretary of the CWU Terry Pullinger) rather than relinquishing any ground and negotiating.