Union bosses have beckoned Royal Mail’s top brass to the negotiating table as both sides hope to thrash out a deal over pensions and avert crippling postal strikes.
On Tuesday, the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) set a 6 September deadline to make “sufficient progress” in talks over the planned closure of Royal Mail’s multi-billion pound pension scheme.
If a deal isn’t reached in time, the CWU plans to ballot members for industrial action.
Strikes by the union’s 111,000 members could lead to a Christmas delivery shutdown.
The CWU says its negotiators are exasperated by agreeing on parts of a deal only for Royal Mail representatives to change their minds after speaking with management. The postal giant refutes this, saying senior managers are involved in negotiations throughout.
Nevertheless, deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger has thrown down the gauntlet to the likes of Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene to come to the negotiations themselves in an attempt to clear up “a lot of mixed messages”.
A spokesperson for Royal Mail said Greene “has always engaged in constructive and proactive dialogue with Royal Mail's unions”.
The spokesperson added:
A range of negotiations are underway with the CWU involving many senior Royal Mail executives. As in previous negotiations, these are being led by senior executives from our operations business and our industrial relations professionals.
As the negotiations progress – as on previous occasions – other senior executives at the group level participate in specific discussions. That will continue to be our approach.
Despite having one of the largest pension surpluses in the FTSE 100, Royal Mail revealed plans to shut its final salary pension scheme earlier this year. If it remains open, the scheme will cost the group around £1.3bn a year, it said.
The CWU surprised Royal Mail by making a counter-proposal of a new scheme rather than immediately balloting for strikes.
Earlier this week, members of the Unite union narrowly rejected Royal Mail pensions proposals in a ballot. Unite represents 6,000 management-grade Royal Mail staff and the pension proposals include a guaranteed cash element to a defined contribution scheme.