Royal Mail’s main union expects to “nail down” a final pay and pensions deal this week, ending a bitter and protracted industrial dispute.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) claimed victory, saying the threat of strike action during the critical Christmas period forced the Royal Mail’s top brass to take the union more seriously.
Talks have made steady progress since October, something that has not gone unnoticed by the City. Royal Mail’s shares have risen by a quarter since a November nadir, adding £1bn to the postal giant’s stock market valuation.
“Philosophically we are in the right place… Once you get into the drafting, it is such a complex thing,” CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger told City A.M. earlier this week.
“We’re really trying to get it [a final agreement] nailed down next week.”
Royal Mail unveiled plans to shut its pension scheme one year ago amid fears it would cost more than £1bn a year to keep it open. This, plus changes to pay, working hours and conditions prompted an industrial scrap, weighing on Royal Mail’s share price so heavily it lost its prized place in the FTSE 100.
“Lost our way”
The CWU balloted its 110,000 members in October with almost nine in 10 of voting in favour of strike action. A planned 48-hour walkout was successfully blocked by a High Court ruling mandating both sides should return to the negotiating table to hold mediated talks.
“I think we had really lost our way from an industrial relations point of view,” said Pullinger.
The conversation did not change until we got a massive ‘yes’ vote and gave notice. And although they took us to court and forced into mediation… the conversation had to change.
There is no doubt about it, doing it that process, the proper negotiations started for the first time. The whole process of the ballot was to get a proper negotiation and get into the room – so the objective is done.
He added: “To me, that is the absolute way to do business.”
A spokesperson for Royal Mail said: “Royal Mail and the CWU have continued to make progress in talks on pay, pensions and the other issues under discussion. These talks are ongoing as both parties seek to finalise an agreement.”