Royal Mail workers begin wave of festive strikes across December

Royal Mail workers have begun a wave of strikes that will stretch until Christmas Eve amid a bitter dispute over pay and conditions.

Around 115,000 Communication Workers Union (CWU) members are walking off the job across the UK on Friday while “millions of pieces of mail” pile up, the union has said.

Picket lines formed early on street corners and outside Royal Mail offices, with many donning warm jackets underneath high-vis vests and lighting fires to fight off the chilly single-digit temperatures.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A gathering of at least 15,000 strikers is planned at Parliament Square in London at 1pm.

Further strikes are planned for December 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24. Britons have been advised to post Christmas mail earlier than usual due to the strikes.

One unnamed union member told Sky News: “We are cutting off (finishing rounds before completion) on a regular basis because we’re not getting paid any extra to clear backlogs."

He blamed staff shortages, saying agency workers had been brought in to help.

"We’re on £12 an hour. Agency are getting £15-20," he claimed.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The union is calling for a pay rise for its members that matches the soaring cost of living, and members fear management have plans to turn Royal Mail into a gig economy firm, like Uber.

CMU also claimed workers were facing pay cuts and thousands of compulsory redundancies.

General secretary Dave Ward said: "Royal Mail bosses are risking a Christmas meltdown because of their stubborn refusal to treat their employees with respect.”

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A Royal Mail spokesperson said talks had broken down with the union over its “best and final offer” of a 9 per cent pay deal over 18 months.

The spokesperson said three days were spent discussing what needs to happen for the strikes to be lifted.

"In the end, all we received was another request for more pay, without the changes needed to fund the pay offer," they said, adding that the union "knows full well" that the business is losing more than £1m a day.

The Royal Mail claimed that CWU was "deliberately holding Christmas to ransom for our customers, businesses and families across the country".

 (The CWU)
(The CWU)

In an open letter to customers, Royal Mail said they are bringing in new recruits on different contracts but stressed “this is not the gig economy”.

“We have a generous voluntary redundancy scheme and are not making compulsory redundancies,” the letter said.

On strike days Royal Mail said it will not be delivering letters or door-to-door mail, but will deliver “as many Special Delivery and Tracked 24 parcels as possible”.

Customers are advised to send second class mail by December 12 and first class mail by December 16.