Royal Mail strike: Will Christmas post be disrupted by the proposed walkout?

Tom Parfitt
Royal Mail which was privatised in 2013 is trying to slash costs as it combats lower letter volumes: Reuters

Royal Mail workers could go on strike in the run-up to Christmas after voting overwhelming in favour of industrial action.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) voted to back action by 97 per cent, on a turnout of 76 per cent, raising the prospect of postal disruption over the festive period.

The result is the largest “yes” vote for national industrial action since the passing of the Trade Union Act 2016, which limits unions’ abilities to call strikes.

Here is everything you need to know about the dispute.

Why are Royal Mail workers threatening to strike?

Workers have accused Royal Mail of failing to honour a major agreement over job security and employment rights.

The deal covered a wide range of issues, including plans to reduce the working week and reform pensions.

Industrial relations at the company have worsened this year, with widespread unofficial strikes breaking out virtually every week.

The union claims that up to 50,000 jobs are at risk at Royal Mail, as well as in Parcelforce, under plans to separate it from the postal business.

Terry Pullinger, the CWU’s deputy general secretary, said the union and its members were facing the “fight of our lives” to defend the postal service and their jobs.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn added: “Royal Mail is a Tory-Lib Dem privatisation failure. Its sell-off led to shareholders creaming profits off the top while running down the service.”

Will the strike go ahead?

The CWU said the prospect of the first national postal strike in a decade now “looms large”.

General secretary Dave Ward urged Royal Mail to “enter serious negotiations” with the union and said chief executive Rico Back should now consider his position.

The union’s executive will decide the next move, but Mr Ward said: “We will look at what gives us the most leverage.”

Any widespread action could disrupt postal services throughout Black Friday and Christmas, the busiest time of the year for Royal Mail.

How has the Royal Mail and the government responded?

Royal Mail said it was honouring the agreement struck with the CWU by awarding two pay increases and taking steps towards a shorter working week.

The postal service also said it had joined the CWU to lobby the government for a new pension scheme.

“A ballot result for industrial action does not necessarily mean there will be industrial action,” a spokesperson said.

“We are still in mediation with the CWU. Under our dispute resolution procedure... we are committed to reaching a resolution.”

The threat of a strike is damaging for our business and undermines the trust of our customers, the spokesperson added.

Postal affairs minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “I expect both parties to continue to engage in mediation talks to avoid industrial action – talking is the best way to resolve this dispute amicably.

“While this is for Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union to resolve and come to an agreement, we are monitoring the situation closely and I stand ready to assist in any way I can.”