A Royal Mail strike could impact the biggest shopping day of the year, as a report in The Telegraph indicates that Royal Mail’s first strike since privatisation could kick off on Black Friday next month. The news comes after workers voted to take industrial action in a dispute over their pay and pensions.
The ballot was held by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) after Royal Mail announced the closure of its final salary pension scheme. Nearly three fourths of their 110,000 members voted, with the final tally being 89.1 percent in favour of striking.
The timing of the strike to coincide with the beginning of the Christmas shopping period on November 24 and 25 could seriously impact online retail customers like Amazon and Asos.
For its part, Royal Mail is claiming that a strike by the CWU on Black Friday would violate the terms of a 2013 agreement. They say that both sides must enter “dispute resolution procedures” before any strike can occur, a process that might not be completed until close to Christmas or possibly even later. Nevertheless, the CWU’s postal executive committee is expected to meet on Thursday to formalise the decision and dates.
Black Friday strike could have a wide-reaching impact on Christmas shopping
Royal Mail currently handles approximately half of the UK parcel market. The consumer research head for parcel comparison experts Parcel Hero, David Jinks, told Reuters that any action in the holiday period would affect the public significantly and could even spell the end of Royal Mail altogether. He feels that even limited strikes could reverberate throughout the industry as other delivery firms struggle to handle the extra volumes during the busy period.
In 2016, 130 million parcels were delivered by Royal Mail during the Christmas period. However, they are facing pressure from rivals, which has caused the proportion of their parcel customers who rely solely on Royal Mail to drop by 40 percent since 2009.
The main point of contention in the dispute is pensions. Royal Mail is planning to close the final salary scheme that is already in place to new accruals starting in April and replace it with a new type of defined benefit pension. The union says that Royal Mail’s pension plans would cause members to lose as much as one third of their future pensions on average. Royal Mail now says it will rescind its current offer because industrial action will harm its business and undermine customer trust.
The CWU says it is willing to risk Royal Mail losing customers to get its point across and try to inspire change. The union is calling for the departure of Royal Mail CEO Moya Greene, who they say hasn’t delivered on the promises she made to invest in new services. The CWU’s General Secretary, David Ward, said that postal workers do not agree with the new direction of Royal Mail and are clamouring for a different approach that addresses the rapidly evolving world of communications.
If the strike moves forward on Black Friday, it could stretch the remaining parcel delivery firms to a breaking point, causing delays that could lead to Christmas disappointment.