Postal workers latest to strike as UK cost chaos continues

LONDON, AUGUST 26: Striking postal workers on the picket line in Whitechapel on August 26, 2022 in London, UK. More than 100,000 postal workers stroll out throughout the nation at present in a dispute over pay.

Photo by Guy Smallman/Getty Images

LONDON — Postal workers throughout the U.Ok. went on strike on Friday in a dispute over pay and situations on the former state monopoly Royal Mail, the largest strike of the summer season and the nation’s largest since 2009.

The walkout, the primary of 4 deliberate within the coming weeks, concerned 115,000 workers throughout 1,500 areas, and is the latest in a slew of business disputes unfolding as the nation battles a historic cost-of-living disaster.

This week, prison barristers voted to strike indefinitely from Sept. 5 — the day the nation’s new prime minister is introduced — over cuts to their pay arising from authorities modifications to the nation’s authorized help system.

Meanwhile, mass rail strikes have introduced the nation to a halt on a number of days all through the summer season.

Members of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) voted by a powerful 98.7% in favor of the strike motion, on a turnout of greater than 72%. Further strikes will happen on Aug. 31, Sept. 8 and 9.

LONDON – August 26, 2022: CWU normal secretary Dave Ward (in gray go well with jacket) visits the picket line in Whitechapel on August 26, 2022. Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) voted in favour of strike motion by 97.6 per cent within the poll, within the greatest strike of the summer season thus far.

Guy Smallman/Getty Images

Royal Mail says it has supplied CWU members a 5.5% pay rise, and has cited the corporate’s precarious monetary state of affairs as a key motive why pay can not preserve tempo with inflation.

The group has reiterated that Royal Mail is already dropping £1 million ($1.18 million) a day and CWU’s calls for would cost over £1 billion a 12 months to implement.

In an announcement Thursday, Royal Mail mentioned the strikes had plunged the corporate into “the most uncertain time of its 500-year history.”

“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,” the corporate mentioned.

“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.”

Royal Mail accused the union’s proposals of being resistant to change and mentioned the CWU’s imaginative and prescient for the corporate’s future “would create a vicious spiral of falling volumes, higher prices, bigger losses, and fewer jobs.”

The CWU disputes this suggestion {that a} 5.5% pay rise is on the desk, arguing that in actuality, Royal Mail imposed an unconditional 2% pay rise on workers with out session.

An additional 1.5% is contingent on workers relinquishing sure situations that the CWU deems unacceptable, the union claims, whereas RMG has additionally supplied a £500 performance-related bonus that the union says is unattainable to obtain.

U.Ok. inflation hit 10.1% in July and the Bank of England expects client value will increase to exceed 13% in October. Citi economists this week projected that inflation would go 18% within the first quarter of 2023 as the nation’s power cap continues to soar to unprecedented ranges, deepening the cost-of-living disaster.

U.Ok. power regulator Ofgem on Friday introduced that the annual value cap for power payments would rise by 80% from October, from £1,971 to £3,549, to accommodate hovering gasoline costs. Some market analysts count on the cap to rise above £6,000 throughout 2023.

The CWU has additionally questioned the corporate’s monetary hardships, in mild of considerable payouts to shareholders and prime executives over the previous 12 months. Royal Mail contends that many staff are shareholders and have subsequently acquired these funds, and that two-thirds of the £400 million value of dividend funds lately have been funded by earnings from its GLS arm within the Netherlands.

‘Lost confidence’

CWU Deputy General Secretary Terry Pullinger instructed CNBC that Royal Mail’s negotiating place had been “extremely aggressive” since January, regardless of the 2 events having beforehand been working with out incident on a proposed change settlement, designed to modernize the enterprise. He added that for the reason that flip of the 12 months, “it’s their way or the highway.”

“Our members have voted in two massive ballots, one on pay and one on change proposals and both ballots have seen over 80,000 workers participating in both ballots and returning 97.6% and 98.7% yes for strike action,” Pullinger instructed CNBC by way of e mail on Tuesday.

“This despite unprecedented management propaganda, it is a massive vote of no confidence and shows that RMG have lost the confidence, respect and trust of their employees.”

Royal Mail Group made a £758 million revenue within the final monetary 12 months, pushed partially by elevated postal exercise through the Covid-19 pandemic, however the latest quarter paints a gloomier image, with Royal Mail — the U.Ok. postal service arm of the group — reporting a £92 million working loss. Group earnings had been as an alternative pushed by its Dutch parcel-sorting subsidiary, GLS.

Royal Mail CEO Simon Thompson has insisted on discussing pay and situations concurrently, quite than as separate negotiations, a transfer which echoes the dispute between railway operator Network Rail and numerous transport unions.

Despite the corporate’s monetary struggles, Thompson acquired an annual pay and perks bundle of £753,000 final monetary 12 months, together with a £140,000 one-off bonus. Chief Financial Officer Mick Jeavons earned a reported £1.3 million.

LONDON – August 25, 2022: Royal Mail workers will go on strike on 4 days in August and September in a dispute over pay.

Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency by way of Getty Images

“On one hand, they’re saying to all those employees that have earned that billion pound turnaround ‘there’s no money, the business is in trouble,’ and yet we’re rewarding the CEO with a £140,000 bonus. It’s total arrogance, it’s totally disproportionate,” the CWU’s Pullinger instructed CNBC by way of phone.

“As an ordinary person, I’m looking at it and I’m thinking there always seems to be these moments in history where it just becomes so disproportionate – where the wealthy are getting so rich and ordinary people are getting poorer.”

‘Glue for society’

Pullinger famous the similarities between the Royal Mail dispute and others throughout the non-public sector.
“There must be millions of people that are not in unions that are going through a similar situation but the ones that are, you’re seeing it — the unions are standing up and saying ‘no, this is clearly wrong’,” Pullinger mentioned.

“Something is wrong in the boardrooms of these companies that they think it’s okay to do that and tell the workers ‘nah, we’ve got nothing for you.’ Something is seriously wrong.”

CWU members really feel their sacrifices through the pandemic and position in turning round Royal Mail’s monetary fortunes throughout that interval have gone largely with out reward.

“People have been conditioned to think that they’re not valuable, or they don’t do anything special – if they work in a shop, or they drive a bus, or they deliver stuff or they work for Royal Mail – what the pandemic proved is that they’re actually the glue for society,” Pullinger mentioned.

“It’s been ignored for far too long, and I think what key workers did, apart from having to go through all the mental trauma of putting our families at risk, I think they saw their true value.”


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