Royal Mail faces a possible strike by 4,900 of its managers in a pay dispute that could threaten deliveries to 27 million homes across the UK.
Ballot papers for industrial action were today (Monday 4 April) dropping on the doormats of the managers, members of Unite, the country’s largest union. The ballot closes on Thursday 21 April.
However, Unite said that the pay dispute is part of a much wider set of problems engulfing the now privately-owned Royal Mail, which include the possible failure to meet its Universal Service Obligation (USO) to deliver letters six days-a-week to 27 million address; massive cost-cutting and redundancies; and the decision of a top fund manager to sell his stake in the company.
The managers will be asked to vote on taking strike action and/or industrial action short of a strike after they overwhelmingly rejected a ‘paltry’ 1.3 per cent pay offer for the year starting September 2015 in a consultative ballot.
Unite is calling for talks under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas, but so far management has declined to take up this offer.
The sale of the Royal Mail, after five centuries of state ownership stretching back to 1516, has been dogged with controversy since 60 per cent of the Royal Mail was sold off by the then coalition’s business secretary Vince Cable in 2013, amid accusations that the shares were under-priced and the taxpayer short-changed.
Unite officer for Royal Mail members Brian Scott said: “Our members are disgusted and upset by the abject failure of Royal Mail to take the issue of pay seriously. It is adopting a high handed attitude.
“The company’s final pay offer has already been rejected by 95 per cent of Unite members, but the management remains unwilling to sit down and find a way through this difficulty.
“The dispute is about the 1.3 per cent pay offer for some employees, with a non-consolidated lump sum for others. There has been no increase in overtime or allowances.
“But there are a number of other serious factors that are of great concern to Unite members. Royal Mail has made a commitment to City investors to cut costs by £500 million and it is Unite members that are bearing the brunt of that.
“Had it not been for Unite members going out on daily deliveries - a role they are not employed for - the Royal Mail will have failed its USO and been dragged in front of the regulatory body, Ofcom, and very probably fined millions of pounds.
“This was simply because Royal Mail refused to fill vacancies at the right time – a failure of its own doing.
“Unite members are also facing threats of compulsory redundancy - there have already been more than 530 redundancies across the organisation this year.
“There are enough jobs for our members that are at risk of redundancy but the company refuses to take positive action. Instead the company is penny pinching to reduce headcount before the end of the financial year in an effort to hoodwink its shareholders that it has reduced the number of employees.
“There is a solution to this and Unite is available to meet at any time to reach an agreement. We are also willing to go to Acas, but the company is not.
“If bosses don’t get around the table and industrial action goes ahead, it will hit the delivery of mail and parcels. Mail will arrive late in delivery offices which will mean the next day service will fail, breaching the USO agreement.
“Unite members are fed up being pushed around by an arrogant employer and being taken for granted. They are saying: ‘Enough is enough’.”
Earlier this year, the highly-respected Neil Woodford, who heads up Woodford Investment Management, was reported as selling his entire Royal Mail stake because of regulatory concerns.
The dispute does not include Parcelforce which is covered by a separate agreement
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.