Royal Mail blames strikes as around half of first class mail delivered on time

Royal Mail has apologised to customers after revealing just over half of mail sent first class was delivered the next working day in the latest quarter, blaming nine days of “highly damaging” strikes.

The postal company insisted it wants to improve its quality of service and seek an urgent end to ongoing strike action which has hammered its service in recent months.

Just 54.1% of first class mail was delivered the next working day in the three months to December 4, Royal Mail said.

Three-quarters of first class mail was delivered within two days.

And 78.6% of second class mail was delivered within three working days over the period.

It falls substantially short of its 93% target for first class delivery, and 98.5% target for second class delivery.

Not one postcode area out of the 118 it delivers to achieved its performance target over the period, despite aiming to reach targets in 91.5 areas.

Brighton, Perth, Sunderland and south London were among the worst-performing regions, with delivery performance well below 50%.

The quality of service was significantly higher in the group’s first quarter, from April to June last year, although still below targets.

The company said the majority of mail is delivered on time, but “nine days of highly damaging industrial action” led by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) had significantly lowered its performance as postal staff walked out.

Grant McPherson, the group’s chief operating officer, said: “We are committed to improving our performance and accelerating Royal Mail’s transformation in order to restore service levels while meeting the changing requirements of our customers.

“We’re sorry to any customers who may have been impacted by service levels during this period, which are much lower than we would want as a result of CWU’s ongoing strike action.”

Royal Mail workers have been in a long-running and bitter dispute with bosses over pay and conditions.

Members of the Communication Workers Union on the picket line outside a postal and delivery office
Members of the Communication Workers Union on the picket line outside a postal and delivery office (Victoria Jones/PA)

The CWU co-ordinated a series of strikes in the months leading up to Christmas which led to thousands of postal workers up and down the country walking out.

An overwhelming majority of workers voted for fresh action in a ballot earlier this month, although no new strikes have yet been announced.

The company is tied to a universal service obligation, which forces it to deliver letters and parcels six days a week, at one price to anywhere, to 30 million addresses across the UK.

But chief executive Simon Thompson admitted this week that Royal Mail had failed to meet this obligation recently and needs to do better.

Royal Mail also insisted it is “vital” that it modernises its network and catches up with the changing mix of post in workers’ mailbags.

It said: “Like postal authorities around the world, we have to make changes to adapt to the reality of significant structural declines in letter volumes – which have declined by 25% since the pandemic – alongside growing demands for parcel deliveries.”

However, Mr Thompson was accused of pointing the finger at others over “rogue posters” in delivery offices, such as one urging staff to not “get caught” pausing during their delivery rounds.

MPs probed the boss at a committee meeting on Wednesday after he denied the firm prioritises parcels, which compromises its universal service obligation.

Royal Mail has written to Ofcom, which is the postal services regulator, in efforts to increase engagement and improve performance, the group said on Friday.