UK postmen launch Black Friday strike as union action sweeps the country

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LONDON – Strikers from the CWU Trade Union attend the picket line at the Peckham Royal Mail Center in London, England, on November 24, 2022. Strikes planned for the Black Friday weekend and the run up to Christmas continue after talks between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union ended without a deal.

Dude Smallman/Getty Images

LONDON — Thousands of UK postmen are on a two-day strike, disrupting Black Friday after talks between Royal mail and the Communication Workers Union fell through.

Union leaders, representing around 115,000 striking postmen, re-negotiated with Royal Mail executives early last month, with negotiations now dragging on for seven months.

However, Royal Mail Group – recently renamed International Distribution Services on the London Stock Exchange – said in a statement Wednesday that it had submitted its “best and final offer” and accused the union of “holding Christmas to ransom”.

The CWU has announced 10 more days of strike action until Christmas Eve, four of which have been formally declared, with the last falling on December 1.

In October, Royal Mail announced plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs by the following summer and posted a half-yearly adjusted operating loss of £219 million ($265.3 million). CEO Simon Thompson said the strikes had already added £100m to the company’s turnover. losses so far this year. IDS shares are down more than 58% since the start of the year.

“In a materially loss-making company, with each additional day of strikes, we face the difficult choice of whether to spend our money on wages and protecting jobs, or on the cost of strikes,” Thompson said Wednesday.

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“The CWU’s planned strike action is holding Christmas ransoms for our customers, businesses and families across the country, and endangering the jobs of their own members.”

The union said on Wednesday it had met with Royal Mail executives but claimed Thompson was not present. In a statement, the CWU warned of “the end of Royal Mail as we know it”.

Royal Mail claims its latest offer includes an improved pay agreement of up to 9% over 18 months, a new employee profit-sharing programme, a freeze on redundancies until the end of March 2023 and an improvement in voluntary redundancy schemes.

However, the union accused the company’s executives of “turning Royal Mail Group into a gig-economy-style parcel courier reliant on casual labour,” imposing redundancies on mail carriers while retaining lower-wage agency workers, and a “totally inadequate, 3.5% pay raise without retroactive effect.”

It also said the deal on the table included cuts in sick pay, the scrapping of a Sunday premium payment, later start and finish times and the “introduction of technology that will monitor postmen every minute of the day”.

“We will not allow 115,000 Royal Mail employees – the people who kept us connected during the pandemic and made millions in profits for bosses and shareholders – to deal such a devastating blow to their livelihoods,” said CWU Secretary-General Dave Ward.

“These proposals spell the end of Royal Mail as we know it, and the relegation of a national institution to an untrustworthy Uber-style gig economy company.”

Postmen voted overwhelmingly to strike in August in protest at wages and working conditions after Royal Mail initially imposed a 2% wage increase on workers as UK inflation moved towards double digits. In October, UK inflation stood at 11.1%.

The union is calling for an improved 18-month pay deal, a guarantee that there will be no redundancies and an “alternative business strategy whereby Royal Mail Group would use its competitive advantage to grow as a company, rather than become a package employer in the gig economy.” become. “

Strikes in all sectors

Public and private sector workers are on strike in the UK over wages, benefits and pensions, with inflation at its highest level in more than 40 years and TUSEN Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicting the sharpest drop in living standards last week since the records began.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that an average of 19,500 working days per month were lost to union action in 2019, but this has risen since the Covid-19 pandemic, reaching 87,600 in July 2022.

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Rail strikes have virtually shut down the country’s train services on several days throughout the year, and the RMT union, whose members work for Network Rail and 14 other train operators, recently voted to call for four additional 48-hour rail strikes in the run-up to Christmas.

The Royal College of Nursing recently announced that its members will stage strikes by the end of the year for the first time in their 106-year history.

The British Medical Association is holding a vote in January for young doctors in England on a pay deal that would offer them a 2% increase this year, while 18,000 ambulance workers, represented by the sizable GMB and Unite unions, are currently voting on strike action.

Scottish teachers staged industrial action on Thursday that closed the vast majority of Scotland’s schools and also demanded a 10% pay rise, and several UK teachers’ unions representing more than 400,000 teachers and support staff in total are holding ballots that close in January.

Telecom workers staged a strike in July for the first time in more than 30 years to protest pay, along with additional dates in August and October, while airline baggage handlers walked out for three days on November 18.

Some 100,000 civil servants, including Border Force officials, also recently voted to strike over the Christmas period, demanding a 10% pay rise.

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