Thousands of Royal Mail workers have voted to strike in a dispute over pay in what could be the biggest industrial action of the summer.
About 115,000 members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) were balloted and voted 96.7% in favour of strikes, on a turnout of 77%. The result of the ballot was announced by the union’s general secretary, Dave Ward, and its deputy general secretary, Terry Pullinger, at the York Barbican, where about 300 CWU members were gathered.
Ward said the union would give the company “another opportunity to come back to the negotiating table” but if a deal could not be reached, the CWU would notify Royal Mail of industrial action. The strikes are expected to take place in August.
It is poised to be the biggest strike action in what is shaping up to be a summer of discontent, as thousands of workers from different sectors take action to demand pay awards that keep up with the soaring cost of living.
Rail workers have staged strikes, as have barristers in England and Wales. Heathrow airport is facing a three-day strike by refuellers this week, the Unite union said.
The CWU said management intended to impose a 2% pay rise that would be a “serious real-terms wage cut” for postal workers because of soaring inflation.
To applause from members, Ward said Royal Mail workers “need to see a pay rise now that reflects … that they have turned the fortunes of the company around, and the cost of living crisis”.
He added that the vote for strike action was “also a vote of no confidence in Royal Mail’s CEO and board, who should seriously consider their futures” at the company’s annual meeting on Wednesday.
“While bosses rake in £758m in profit and shareholders take £400m, workers are expected to take a serious real-terms pay cut.”
He said the union was not opposed to modernisation, “but modernisation seems to be about workers having to work harder and faster for less pay”.
Royal Mail said it had awarded workers a non-conditional 2% pay increase backdated to 1 April, and told the CWU that a further 3.5% was available, subject to agreement on a series of changes and a new “above and beyond” bonus.
“We offered a deal worth up to 5.5% for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years, which the CWU rejected. We can only fund this offer by making the changes that will pay for it and ensure Royal Mail can grow and remain competitive in a fast-moving industry.
“Despite nearly three months of talks, the CWU have not engaged in any meaningful discussion on the changes we need to make to adapt.
“In the event of industrial action, we have contingency plans to minimise customer disruption and will work to keep people, businesses and the country connected.”