triking Royal Mail workers are in it for “the long haul”, their union leader said on Thursday as they staged fresh industrial action in a bitter dispute over pay and conditions.
Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), joined a picket line outside a Royal Mail delivery centre in Camden, north London, at the start of a 48-hour walkout which will disrupt postal services.
The union has announced a further 48-hour stoppage from September 30, with no sign that the deadlocked row can be resolved soon.
I have never known workers in Royal Mail to be so angry towards the employer
Mr Ward said: “Imposing a 2% pay increase on the workers who kept the company going during the pandemic, made the record profits that the company during the pandemic, whilst the bosses walked away with huge astronomical bonuses for apparently hitting all their financial targets, is just insulting.
“I have never known workers in Royal Mail to be so angry towards the employer.”
He said the union’s 115,000 members are in the dispute for the “long haul”, adding that they will be fighting to get “the pay deal they deserve”.
The union said postal workers face a “dramatic” reduction in living standards because of the soaring rate of inflation.
Pat Carey, 42, a postman of 25 years and CWU area representative for north-west London, said: “In north west we actually went around collecting for food banks for people struggling; now we’re the ones going to food banks, striking at the moment because 2% is not enough.”
Mark Wilkins, a 53-year-old postman, said staff are facing the “absolutely disgraceful” situation of having to choose between heating their homes and eating this winter.
Dozens of Royal Mail workers formed a picket line outside the delivery office in Camden on Thursday.
Staff were in high spirits, holding signs and banners while playing music. One member of the group played the bagpipes.
Many drivers of passing vehicles beeped their horns in support and workers cheered in response.
CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said: “Our members worked miracles during the pandemic and know full well what they are worth.
“They are fighting for a no-strings, real-terms pay rise – something they are fully entitled to.
“Our members deserve a pay rise that rewards their fantastic achievements in keeping the country connected during the pandemic, but also helps them keep up during this current economic crisis.
“We won’t be backing down until we get just that.”
A Royal Mail spokesman said: “The CWU’s decision to announce further strike action is placing jobs at risk. Royal Mail is losing £1 million a day. Strike action has weakened our financial position and is threatening the long-term job security of our postmen and women.
“The CWU has a responsibility to recognise the reality of the situation Royal Mail faces as a business and to engage urgently on the changes required.
“We are now a parcels business. We must adapt old ways of working designed for letters to a world increasingly dominated by parcels and act fast.
“We want to protect well-paid, permanent jobs long term and retain our place as the industry leader on pay, terms and conditions.
In a business that is currently losing £1 million a day, we can only fund this offer by agreeing the changes that will pay for it. We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience the CWU’s continued strike action will cause
“The CWU rejected our offer worth up to 5.5% for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years. In a business that is currently losing £1 million a day, we can only fund this offer by agreeing the changes that will pay for it.
“We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience the CWU’s continued strike action will cause. We are doing all we can to minimise any delays and keep people, businesses and the country connected.”
The CWU has described the strikes as the biggest of the summer, which has also seen industrial action by rail workers, Openreach engineers, BT call centre staff, refuse collectors and barristers.
The irony is that by taking his members out on strike and refusing to discuss the changes needed to modernise Royal Mail, Dave Ward is increasing the possibly that we will become a takeover target – the very thing the CWU is now telling its members to fear
The Royal Mail spokesman added: “In successive media interviews, Dave Ward has indicated that Royal Mail is in ‘secret talks’ with a private equity investment group about the takeover of Royal Mail.
“As we have made clear to the CWU, these allegations are completely baseless. This is typical deflection from the CWU. They are throwing in speculation about takeovers, questioning our commitment to the Universal Service and even talking up renationalisation – all to get away from talking about the change we need for our business.
“The irony is that by taking his members out on strike and refusing to discuss the changes needed to modernise Royal Mail, Dave Ward is increasing the possibly that we will become a takeover target – the very thing the CWU is now telling its members to fear.”