Postal workers in the UK launch Black Friday strike as industrial action sweeps the country

LONDON — CWU Trade Union strikers take part in the picket line at Peckham Royal Mail Center on November 24, 2022 in London, England. Strikes planned for Black Friday weekend and the run-up to Christmas continue after talks between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union ended without an agreement.

Guy Smallman/Getty Images

LONDON – Thousands of postal workers in Britain are on a two-day strike, disrupting Black Friday after talks between them Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union failed.

Leaders of the union, which represents around 115,000 striking postal workers, resumed negotiations with Royal Mail executives early last month, with talks now lasting seven months.

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

The CWU has announced 10 more strike days until Christmas Eve, four of which have been officially announced, the last for 1/12.

In October Royal Mail announced plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs by next summer and has posted an adjusted operating loss of £219m lost so far this year. IDS stock is down more than 58% year-to-date.

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

“The CWU’s planned strike action is blackmailing Christmas for our customers, businesses and families across the country and endangering the jobs of its 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 the Royal Mail as we know it”.

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

But the union accused company executives of “transforming the Royal Mail Group into a gig-economy-style parcel courier dependent on casual labourers”, imposing forced redundancies on postal workers while retaining lower-wage agency workers, and a “woefully inadequate , non-retroactive salary increase of 3.5%.”

It also said the deal on the table included cuts in sick pay, the elimination of a Sunday bonus payment, later start and end times and the “introduction of technology that will monitor postal workers every minute of the day.”

BIRMINGHAM, UK – November 24th 2022: Postal workers on the picket line at the Central Delivery Office and Mail Center in Birmingham. Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) are holding a 48-hour strike in a long-running dispute over jobs, wages and working conditions.

Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images

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

“These proposals spell the end of Royal Mail as we know it, and its demotion from a national institution to an unreliable Uber-style gig economy.”

Postal workers voted overwhelmingly to go on strike in August to protest wages and working conditions after Royal Mail initially imposed a 2% wage increase on workers as UK inflation headed for double digits. UK inflation hit 11.1% in October.

The union is calling for an improved 18-month pay deal, a no-redundancy guarantee and an “alternative business strategy that would result in Royal Mail Group using its competitive advantage to grow as a business, rather than being an employer for gig economy to become packages. “

Intersectoral strikes

Public and private sector workers in the UK are on strike over pay, working conditions and pensions, with inflation at its highest level in over 40 years and the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) last week forecast the sharpest fall in living standards on record of the records.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that an average of 19,500 workdays per month were lost to industrial action in 2019, but that number has been rising since the Covid-19 pandemic, reaching 87,600 in July 2022.

Rail strikes have brought the country’s train service to a virtual standstill several days a year, and the RMT union, whose members work for Network Rail and 14 other rail operators, recently voted to launch four more 48-hour rail strikes across the US just before 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 its 106-year history.

The British Medical Association is to hold a vote for young doctors in England in January over a pay deal that would offer them a 2% increase this year, while 18,000 nurses, represented by the big unions GMB and Unite, are currently on strike decide by vote.

The Bank of England's chief economist warns there is a

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

Telecom workers went on 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 were out for three days on November 11. 18

Some 100,000 officers, including Border Force officers, also recently voted to go on strike over the holiday season and demanded a 10% pay rise.

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