Royal Mail workers have overwhemingly voted in favour of continuing strike action, with 95.5% of union members voting to continue striking.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “After two national ballots, 18 days of action, constant management intimidation and scores of unjust disciplinary cases against their colleagues, postal workers have shown their dignity and determination once again.
“This vote is a historic testament to CWU members across the country who have stood firm against the most severe attacks faced by any set of workers since the miners. It is proof that postal workers will not accept their livelihoods being destroyed so that a few at the top can generate serious profits at their expense.
“It is proof that workers loyal to an historic institution like Royal Mail will not accept it being turned into an Uber-style, bog-standard gig economy employer. It is proof that for Royal Mail to begin functioning normally again, there needs to be a change in negotiating approach from its leadership that recognises the depth of feeling from the workforce that make their company.
“These people will never be bullied, intimidated or harassed into submission, and this result is a concrete demonstration of that spirit. I urge responsible voices in Royal Mail’s leadership to take stock of what has happened today.”
It comes after a planned strike by postal workers this month was been called off, following a legal challenge from Royal Mail. Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) had scheduled a 24 hour walk out in February over an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.
A legal challenge to the walk out was brought forward by Royal Mail which called into question the grounds on which reasons for the strike had been called. The Royal Mail described it as a “legal error” and said its cancellation would mean “relief” for customers.
When were Royal Mail workers last on strike?
Royal Mail workers last took strike action over the Christmas period - as part of the increasinly bitter pay dispute - with the company saying the industrial action cost it £200 million. The CWU recently closed a ballot for further action.
It comes as strikes action continues to affect several different industries within the UK. NHS strikes involving nurses and ambulance drivers have occurred amid a fight for a pay rise for public sector workers, while the RMT union representing railway workers across the country received a new pay offer from the Rail Delivery Group as the pay dispute between camps continue.
The Royal Mail was also subject to a Russian cyber attack. The cyber incident left letters and parcels unable to be sent overseas. Royal Mail CEO Simon Thompson faced a panel of MPs on 17 January about the ongoing industrial action and the cyber attack on the company. He came under fire over his £500,000 salary and £140,000 bonus amid workers calling for a pay rise.
What are Royal Mail workers asking for?
The main aim of striking postal workers is to gain a pay rise which is in line with current inflation rates. The CWU has said that the current offer from bosses - a 9% pay rise over 18 months - will have a “devastating blow” on their members’ lives. The union is also asking the company to protect jobs in the sector. In 2022, Royal Mail announced plans to cut around 6,000 jobs in cost-cutting measures.
The CWU general secretary Dave said: “When a company openly boasts of having built a £1.7 billion fund to crush its own workers rather than use that money to settle the dispute and restore the service, then you know dark forces are clearly at work. Their sole intention is to destroy the jobs of postal workers and remove their union from the workplace.
“Our members will not stand for this, and further action will take place in 2023. Our message to the public and businesses is that postal workers do not want to be here, but they are facing an aggressive, reckless and out-of-control CEO committed to wrecking their livelihoods.”
The Royal Mail has said that the company is committed to resolving the dispute. Previously, the group said that union bosses were “playing a dangerous game with its members’ jobs and the future of Royal Mail” as the dispute rumbles on.
Is the dispute closer to being resolved?
The long-running dispute has remained deadlocked for some time. Union representatives and Royal Mail bosses held talks at conciliation service Acas last month in hope of finding a resolution, however these appeared to have failed.
Strike action looks set to continue after the recent ballot was returned. A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the CWU members who took part in the ballot have voted to take further industrial action.
“Even the threat of more strike action by the CWU means more customers will switch their parcel business to our competitors. We remain committed to getting around the table with the CWU, resolving this dispute and agreeing a pay and change deal for our people. Should the CWU announce further strike action, we have plans to minimise disruption and get our services back to normal as soon as possible to keep people, businesses and the country connected.
“Royal Mail can have a bright future, and the CWU play a part in that, but further strikes and resistance to change by the CWU will only worsen our financial position and threaten the long-term job security of our postmen and women.
“Not changing is not an option in a business losing £1m a day. The company’s financial position is worsening with every strike day, and we know that it is well understood by our employees. Royal Mail reported losses of almost £300 million in the nine months to December 2022, two-thirds resulting from industrial action.
“We urge the CWU to seriously consider our best and final pay offer and to work with us to transform Royal Mail and secure its future. That is in the best interests of Royal Mail and all its employees.”