Royal Mail postal workers are to hold 19 days of strikes over pay and conditions in the run up to Christmas, covering Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The strike action has been called for 24 hours starting at 4am on various days starting on 13 October and then on 20 and 25 of the same month, as well as 28 November. Different teams and combinations of workers will also strike on other dates, with each having knock-on effects for the whole postal system through out the crucial run up to peak.
The dispute centres on the Communications Workers Union’s (CWU) view that Royal Mail management is seeking to ‘casualise’ the postal service and that they “want to turn it into an Uber-style employer”, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said in a statement.
He adds: “This is a significant announcement, but it is one which matches the level of anger our members feel at the way Royal Mail Group has treated them. These are the same people that have kept the country connected and returned Royal Mail Group to record profit.
“Postal workers across the UK now face the fight of their lives to save their jobs and the service they provide to every household and business in the UK. We call on everyone to stand with their local postal worker.”
A spokesperson for Royal Mail, however, says that: “Royal Mail is losing £1m a day and must change faster in response to changing customer demands. We operate in a competitive market, and our customers have choices.
“Further strikes and resistance to transformation by CWU will only make our financial position worse, and threatens the long-term job security of our postmen and women.”
The spokesperson said Royal Mail had invited CWU to discussions through dispute resolution service Acas on 22 September., but the union had instead announced strike action.
Impact on retail
The news is a blow for the retail sector, which is already facing a tough run up to Christmas with shoppers expected to spend less as they battle the cost of living crisis.
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, says: “The announcement of a prolonged strike period running across peak trading will cause real operational headaches for retailers.
“The fact that the Black Friday weekend is also affected will be a particular cause for concern, but delays in shipping items is unlikely to dampen demand too much – it is far out from Christmas and people are focused on discounts over speed at that point.”
He warns: “The bigger issue and far greater concern for Black Friday trading is the economic situation which is choking off conversion on retail sites; unless there is a dramatic turnaround in shopper confidence, we are anticipating a -5% drop in sales across Black Friday week, declining against -10% last year. It is looking like a very fraught trading period this year indeed.”