British postal staff walk out at start of biggest UK summer strike so far

Deliveries to come to a standstill on Friday as union plans more protest action

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Rejecting a 5.5 per cent pay offer, more than 115,000 workers at Britain's Royal Mail launched a four-day strike on Friday, with the postal group warning customers of significant disruption.

Employees across the UK workforce are demanding higher wages in the face of a cost-of-living crisis, with energy bills soaring and inflation projected to exceed 13 per cent.

"We are going to fight very hard here to get the pay rise our members deserve," said Dave Ward, the Communication Workers' Union general secretary.

Royal Mail says it has offered a 5.5 per cent pay rise for CWU-grade workers, its biggest increase in years. The protest action is being described as the UK's biggest strike of the summer so far.

The CWU said its members were taking the action for a “dignified, proper pay rise” after they voted in favour by 97.6 per cent in a ballot. The strike on Friday will be followed by further stoppages next Wednesday, and on September 8 and 9.

The union said management imposed a 2 per cent pay rise on employees, yet they were classified as key workers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In an economic climate where inflation looks set to soar to 18 per cent by January 2023, the imposition will lead to a dramatic reduction in workers’ living standards,” said a union spokesman.

Mr Ward said he expected 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.

“Royal Mail’s leadership has 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 the Royal Mail Group had left workers with “no choice but to fight”.

Strikes in Britain — in pictures

Royal Mail said it has “well-developed contingency plans” to minimise disruption, focused on getting mail delivery back to normal as quickly as possible after the strike action.

The company said that on days when strike action is taking place, it would deliver as many Special Delivery and Tracked24 parcels as possible, prioritising Covid-19 test kits and medical prescriptions.

Customers are advised to post items as early as possible before the strike dates. Collections will be less frequent on days of protest action.

The union is also in dispute with Royal Mail over efficiency.

A company representative said: “We are losing £1 million [$1.1m] a day and we need to change what we are doing to fix the situation and protect jobs.

“This change is also needed to support the pay package we have offered to CWU grade colleagues, worth up to 5.5 per cent.

“This is the biggest increase we have offered for many years and the CWU have rejected it. This would add around £230m to Royal Mail’s annual people costs when the business is already loss-making.”

The union expects it to be the biggest strike of the summer, following strikes in other sectors such as rail, telecoms and the legal profession.

Updated: August 26, 2022, 10:58 AM
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