Support for national postal strike this summer growing

Postal workers and their supporters march in Belfast last year

Britain looks set for a national post strike this summer after independent polls showed that a clear majority of Royal Mail workers intend to vote in favour of action next month.

Taken from The Times

Postal workers are set to deliver a 65 per cent yes vote in favour of a national strike, according to independent polling commissioned by the Communication Workers Union (CWU), the main postal union.

The percentage in favour of an all-out strike over pay, which could cripple services as early as next month, has increased from 54 per cent four weeks ago to 65 per cent last week, according to sources at the CWU.

A telephone survey of 2,000 postal workers by the Campaign Company also rates a video sent to postal employees by Allan Leighton, the chairman of Royal Mail, as the single most negative message from Royal Mail. In it he uses the word “bulls**t”.

CWU sources are believed to be increasingly confident of a convincing vote in favour of strike action over the pay dispute amid an intense campaign by both sides. Last week the union advertised in seven national newspapers to put its case over pay and services to the public and to postal workers.

Royal Mail responded with its own campaign the following day. It has also used Mr Leighton’s direct appeal to workplaces as well as letters from him and Adam Crozier, its chief executive, to employees. It is 11 years since Royal Mail suffered a national strike.

Royal Mail’s wider relations with the unions are also set to worsen after Britain’s biggest union, which represents thousands of postal managers, branded the organisation as visionless and old fashioned.

Unite, the union formed from the merger of Amicus and the T&G, accused Royal Mail executives of “muddling around in the dark, without a clear vision”.

Paul Reuter, national officer with Unite, said that the culture of Royal Mail needed to change before sweeping strategic changes were made to the business. He told The Times: “The biggest problem with Royal Mail is the culture. It is very old fashioned. It is as though they are stuck in the Seventies with a command and control approach.

“They are panicking over competition and see problems rather than opportunities.”

Unite, which represents 11,000 managers, is about to begin its own pay negotiations with Royal Mail, although both sides are likely to wait for the outcome of the dispute between the postal group and the CWU.

The CWU is in the final stage of balloting its 130,000 members for strike action. A result is due by June 7.

Although Unite represents the managers who are in charge of postal workers, it is to distribute the CWU’s arguments throughout the lower tiers of management. In a letter to managers, Mr Reuter says: “I am extremely concerned that Royal Mail appears not to be concentrating on resolving the current issue that they have with the CWU. The longer this remains unresolved, the more long-term damage may be done to the business.”

A spokesman for Royal Mail said: “Royal Mail has a very clear vision of becoming a modern, competitive and flexible postal operator able to compete and win business in a very tough market – but to compete we need to change and the union appears to have failed to grasp that stark commercial reality.”

Royal Mail will soon unveil a sharp drop in annual profits, amid a big loss of business to rival operators. At its interim stage the group reported an 86 per cent plunge in pretax profits to £22 million. It now loses the sorting and collection of one in five items of mail to competitors, although it still delivers the vast majority of post over the final mile for the rivals that use its infrastructure.

The loss of business has risen sharply from last year’s level of one in eight items of post. Service figures for Royal Mail show that it achieved 11 out of its 12 license targets for the last quarter of its financial year. About 94 per cent of first-class mail arrived the next day, compared with the target of 93 per cent.

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May 29 2007 12:34


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