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Postal workers 'completely united' in nationwide strike over pay

By Alan Hendry

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Royal Mail Group maintains that any talks 'must be about both change and pay'.
Royal Mail Group maintains that any talks 'must be about both change and pay'.

Postal workers are expected to be manning picket lines at several locations across Sutherland and Caithness on Friday as part of a nationwide strike over pay.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents Royal Mail Group workers, says it will be the biggest strike of the summer with some 115,000 staff involved.

The union is demanding a “dignified, proper pay rise” and Friday's action will be followed by further strikes on August 31, September 8 and September 9.

Royal Mail Group says it is losing £1 million a day and insists "old ways of working" need to change. It claims the action is "putting jobs at risk and making pay rises less affordable".

A recent union ballot saw members vote by 97.6 per cent on a 77 per cent turnout to take action over pay. The CWU is seeking a pay award that covers the increasing cost of living.

The union said management had given employees a two per cent pay rise earlier this summer, despite them being classed as key workers throughout the pandemic. With inflation predicted to rise to 18 per cent by January, the CWU says this would add up to "a dramatic reduction in workers’ living standards".

General secretary Dave Ward said: “On Friday, we will see a tremendous outpouring of workers’ unity in villages, towns and cities across the country.

“There can be no doubt that postal workers are completely united in their determination to secure the dignified, proper pay rise they deserve.

“We can’t keep on living in a country where bosses rake in billions in profit while their employees are forced to use food banks.

“When Royal Mail bosses are raking in £758 million in profit and shareholders pocketing in excess of £400 million, our members won’t accept pleas of poverty from the company.

“Postal workers won’t meekly accept their living standards being hammered by greedy business leaders who are completely out of touch with modern Britain.

“They are sick of corporate failure getting rewarded again and again.

“Royal Mail’s leadership have lost the dressing room – and unless they make efforts to get real on discussing a pay rise that postal workers deserve, serious disruption will continue.”

CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said: “Our members worked miracles during the pandemic and know full well what they are worth.

“They are fighting for a no-strings, real-terms pay rise – something they are fully entitled to.

“Those managing Royal Mail Group are treating our members with contempt by imposing such a minimal amount.

“Royal Mail Group have failed to recognise the strength of feeling on pay, so they have left us with no choice but to fight.

“Our members deserve a pay rise that rewards their fantastic achievements in keeping the country connected during the pandemic, but also helps them keep up during this current economic crisis.

“We won’t be backing down until we get just that.”

The CWU issued a list of picket-line locations across the UK. These include Bettyhill, Dornoch, Golspie, Halkirk, Helmsdale, Lybster, Melvich, Rhiconich, Rogart, Thurso and Wick.

Royal Mail Group said on Thursday: "Tomorrow’s CWU strike thrusts Royal Mail into the most uncertain time of its 500-year history. It is putting jobs at risk and making pay rises less affordable. We are losing £1 million a day. We must change to fix the situation and protect high-quality jobs.

"The change we need is the change the public demand of us. They want more and bigger parcels delivered the next day – including Sundays – and more environmentally friendly options. They want this at a competitive price, with great quality of service.

"We cannot cling to outdated working practices, ignoring technological advancements and pretending that Covid has not significantly changed what the public wants from Royal Mail.

"While our competitors work seven days a week, delivering until 10pm to meet customer demand, the CWU wants to work fewer hours, six days a week, starting and finishing earlier. Their plans to transform Royal Mail come with a £1 billion price tag, are predicated on a wholly unrealistic revival in letter-writing, and prevent Royal Mail from growing, and remaining competitive, in a fast-moving industry.

"The CWU’s vision for Royal Mail would create a vicious spiral of falling volumes, higher prices, bigger losses and fewer jobs.

"Our future is as a parcels business. We must adapt old ways of working designed for letters to a world increasingly dominated by parcels, and we must act fast. We want to protect well-paid, permanent jobs long-term and retain our place as the industry leader on pay, terms and conditions. That is in the best interests of Royal Mail and all its employees.

"We apologise to our customers and the public for the inconvenience the CWU’s strike action will cause. We have offered to meet the CWU numerous times in recent weeks, but they declined each invitation, preferring to spend their time on the political agenda of the UK trade union movement.

"We remain ready to talk with the CWU to try and avert damaging industrial action and prevent significant inconvenience for customers. But any talks must be about both change and pay.

"We have contingency plans to minimise customer disruption and will work to keep people, businesses and the country connected."

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