Postal workers have voted to stage a one-day strike next month over issues relating to the privatisation of Royal Mail.
Royal Mail staff seek a binding deal on pay and conditions More than 100,000 postal workers will walk out on 4 November unless the company meets union demands for improved pay and conditions.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said it balloted 115,000 members in Royal Mail and Parcelforce and that 78 per cent of those who voted had backed strike action.
Union chiefs said they would consider further action and announced an escalation, with a second ballot which would cause further disruption by enabling postal workers to boycott competitors’ mail.
The CWU says it is holding the strike to protect terms and conditions at the newly privatised company.
Royal Mail has warned the move will lead to significant disruption. A strike on 4 November, coming seven weeks before Christmas, would hit the start of the festive season – the postal service’s busiest time of year.
Staff have been given free shares in the new company in an attempt to improve labour relations, with each full-time member receiving 725 shares, worth £3,545 at Tuesday’s close.
However, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said job and pay security were more important than one-off share payments.
He said: “Postal workers have spoken very clearly that they care about their jobs, terms and conditions far more than they care about shares.
“We have offered the company a two-week period to reach an agreement and this is achievable if there is a will.
“What we want is a ground-breaking, long-term, legally binding agreement that not only protects postal workers’ job security, pay and pensions, but will also determine the strategy, principles and values of how the Royal Mail Group will operate as a private entity.”
He said staff needed guarantees that there “will be no further break-up of the company, no franchising of individual offices or delivery rounds”.
Mr Ward added: “It will mean this company will not be able to enter the race to the bottom and replicate the employment practices and service standards of their competitors.”
The Direct Marketing Association, whose members account for £1 billion of Royal Mail’s turnover, said the strike would have a “severe” financial impact on tens of thousands of companies, charities and others.
Executive director Chris Combemale said: “People who rely on Royal Mail to deliver billions of pounds of goods ordered online would have their festive season disrupted, and loss of trade would lead to job cuts.”
Royal Mail said it was “very disappointed” by the strike announcement, adding that any action was damaging. Shares fell 3.4 per cent to 473p following the announcement.
Michael Fallon, the business minister in charge of the privatisation, attacked union chiefs for pressing ahead with strike plans despite a pay offer of 8.6 per cent over three years.