Royal Mail could soon be hit by UK-wide strikes over plans to sack nearly 1,000 managers and bring in lower rates of pay in what Unite the union says today (Wednesday) is yet another case of ‘fire and rehire’.

Unite is preparing an industrial action ballot, which would see strikes begin as soon as April, after an initial consultation with its membership found almost seven in ten (67 per cent on an 82 per cent turnout) backed strike action.

Unite says that their members’ position has hardened in recent weeks because the employers “kept moving the goalposts” during negotiations on the proposed changes.

Royal Mail is looking to introduce a new band for managers, paid less but also with the salary capped so eroding its value year-on-year, while cutting hundreds of existing postal manager jobs – akin to fire and rehire, according to the union.

The union claims that the job cuts are driven by shareholder greed, despite the service returning a record £311 million in profits only months ago (see notes to editors) and that the business’s real plan is to eventually cut the six day delivery service altogether and move to the three day service model found in some European countries such as Denmark.

In 2021, the Royal Mail cut 1,600 jobs, leaving the service seriously understaffed. Unite says that the company is already struggling to make the quality targets on delivery and service set by the regulator Ofcom and cannot afford to shed yet more business-critical jobs.

A strike will hit letter and parcel services across the UK as 3,000 Royal Mail members at 1,500 workplaces will walk out.

Calling on Royal Mail to step back from yet more job cuts, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Royal Mail has no excuse for announcing these job cuts, especially at the same time as introducing ‘new’ bands on lower pay. That is just ‘fire and rehire’.

“They are not even losing money. Royal Mail’s private shareholders are doing very nicely out of the UK. This is shameless boardroom greed looking to ruin a great UK name and a 500-year old essential service.

“Our members are determined to prevent this destruction and they have the full backing of their union every step of the way.”

A survey of Unite members has revealed that the current service is built on unpaid work by the postal managers and so it can ill-afford to lose 1,000 from the workforce. Members regularly go without lunch breaks, work unpaid at weekends and even forego annual leave to provide the public with a service.

Unite national officer with responsibility for Royal Mail, Mike Eatwell added: “The Royal Mail service is now running on the goodwill of our members but they’ve had enough. Royal Mail keeps moving the goalposts but it is clear to our members that the employer’s vision for the future is a slashed service and a low-waged workforce. 

 “It’s high time the owners came clean with the UK public. Tell them that the priority is not the daily delivery of the letters and parcels that they rely on but to extract even more profit for a handful of greedy shareholders.”

Chris, a Unite member and postal manager talks about the impact of the Royal Mail cuts here.

ENDS

Notes to editors

www.theguardian.com/business/2021/nov/18/boost-for-shareholders-as-parcels-help-royal-mail-to-311m-profit

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.