Trade union baron Dave Ward has said posties will need to adopt a more business focused approach to industrial action in the new year, expanding action beyond just strikes.
The man behind both the Royal Mail and Post Office strikes said the Communication Workers Union (CWU) was currently “weighing up other ways we can put pressure on Royal Mail” as opposed to simply walkouts in 2023.
“We are not walking away, but we have to be open to the different ways of winning disputes,” Ward told City A.M earlier today.
The CWU is due to meet with Royal Mail shareholders in the coming weeks, where the focus will land on limiting further damage to smaller companies who rely on the service, Ward says.
Ebay’s UK chief Murray Lambell previously slammed the posties’ strike action, telling City A.M. independent businesses are being caught in a “crosshairs at the very time they most need support”.
The union boss said he was “sympathetic” to firms being caught up in the strikes, but would engage with them more closely in the coming year.
The comments come as the CWU continue their fourth day of strike action this month alone, with over 100,000 of Royal Mail’s 140,000 workers taking part.
Although discussions have been ongoing since the summer, the CWU has made headlines in recent weeks with its Black Friday strikes, as well as upcoming dates throughout December and Christmas Eve, severely disrupting festive shopping.
Ward told City A.M. that whilst media attention may be on the present buying, the issue was much bigger than that.
“If we don’t take action this Christmas, there will be disruption to every other Christmas for Royal Mail,” he said, criticising CEO Simon Thompson’s transformation plans for the company.
“We can’t afford to build the future world of work on a gig economy model and expect a country to be successful,” he explains. “The taxpayer will end up subsidising poorly paid workers”.
The main point of contention for the CWU is that the postal firm is slowly but surely pivoting away from its universal postal service at the expense of employees.
However, last month the former state-owned company, also known as International Distributions Services (IDS), called on ministers to reduce the letter numbers to ensure the “long-term sustainability” of the universal service – the legal guarantee to offer the same price for deliveries across the country.
It said operating losses had ballooned to £163m in the half year, with CWU’s action alone costing the company £100m.
A Royal Mail spokesperson told City A.M..: “We are proud to provide the best pay and conditions in our industry. In an industry dominated by the ‘gig economy’, insecure work, and low pay, our model sets us apart and we want to preserve it.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Royal Mail’s headache continues as we head into the new year, with the union showing no signs of backing down. The delivery giant insists that it has given workers the “best and final pay offer”, which it says is worth up to nine per cent over 18 months.
However, the CWU deems it a real-terms pay rise of three per cent next year, as well as an additional two per cent if workers agree to company changes, which it immediately rejected.
Meanwhile, chief exec Simon Thompson continues to put on a brave face, insisting that he will do “whatever it takes” to turn the company around – including shrinking the workforce by 10,000 by next August and pushing ahead with structural change, focusing less on letters and more on the lucrative packages market.
Although the union bosses were able to settle a pay deal with telecoms giant BT, which started at a similar time, the situation seems to be going from bad to worse for Royal Mail – from violence on the picket lines to stunted negotiation talks.
Losses are likely to widen for the delivery firm in the coming year, with Christmas feeling a lot less merry than it previously has been.