The Communication Workers Union has given its clearest indication to date that there will be industrial action at Royal Mail in the run-up to Christmas and during the general election campaign.
Terry Pullinger, the union’s deputy general secretary, said the CWU was still in what he called a “resolution process” with the company to resolve a dispute that began in May but that talks weren’t progressing and that strike action looks inevitable.
”As you are asking me now, I don’t think there is absolutely any doubt whatsoever that we will be giving [the company] notice and we will be taking industrial action through the build-up to Christmas and through the period up to the general election,” Mr Pullinger told ITV News.
Mr Pullinger said that the scale of the strike action the union is planning is “significant” and that Black Friday (November 29) and Cyber Monday (December 2) are “in the mix”.
He said the precise dates will be published after a meeting of the CWU’s National Executive Committee next Wednesday.
Last month, postal workers voted overwhelmingly to back industrial action in a dispute about job security, conditions and alleged bullying.
Three-quarters of the CWU's 110,000 members voted - 97.1% supported strikes. Royal Mail employs 140,000 people in the UK.
At the time the ballot was conducted, it wasn’t clear that there was going to be a general election.
The Royal Mail plays a crucial role in postal ballots, delivering forms on behalf of local authorities and handling the returns. 8.4 million people voted by post at the last election in 2017.
Last week, Royal Mail asked the CWU to rule out industrial action during the election campaign but the union refused.
Mr Pullinger insisted that it is not in its members’ interests to delay until January, when a strike would caused significantly less disruption.
“We need to raise the profile of this campaign and win this dispute,” he explained.
The CWU is affiliated to the Labour Party, donated £250,000 to its 2017 election campaign and will help fund this one too.
Thus far, Labour has publicly supported the CWU’s right to strike during the campaign. Labour also has plans to renationalise Royal Mail if it forms the next government.
Terry Pullinger insists that the union is acting independently of Labour and that it wouldn’t call off strike action even if it came under political pressure to do so.
“We wouldn’t call off industrial action for anybody, not even the Labour Party. This is our dispute and our executive and our reps that will call it off not any political party,” Mr Pullinger said.
'I think they trust their postal workers more than they do politicians at the moment'
In at statement, Royal Mail said: “Industrial action - or the threat of it - undermines the trust of our customers. It makes it harder for Royal Mail to pay for the existing industry-leading terms and conditions it provides. There are no grounds for industrial action.
“In the event of industrial action in the run up to a General Election, election mail will be our number one priority... The recent ballot result does not necessarily mean that industrial action will take place”.
If strike dates are announced next Wednesday it will be the first nationwide walkout at Royal Mail for ten years.
A lot has changed since 2009. Royal Mail’s letters business has continued to decline and its parcels business is up against stiff competition from the likes of Yodel, Hermes, DPD and now Amazon.
Interestingly enough, 10% of Royal Mail’s shares were given to staff when it was privatised in October 2013. Many of the postal workers who have voted to strike are also shareholders
A strike in the run-up to Christmas, at Royal Mail’s busiest time of year, will undoubtedly hurt the company.
Royal Mail is already under pressure, its share price has fallen 60% in the last 12 months.
In May, the company cut the returns it made to shareholders to help fund investment in its parcels service.