Thousands of postal workers in London are set to embark on a 24-hour strike next Friday over an “arbitrary” culling of the workforce by Royal Mail.
The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has accused Royal Mail of reneging on their 2007 agreement to consult on modernisation.
While the initial action only involves workers in the capital, the CWU confirmed that similar ballots were planned for other areas and that industrial action was likely to spread in the face of management intransigence.
A CWU spokesman explained: “Following the 2007 postal dispute, an agreement was struck that ensured both the company and the union worked together to improve efficiency. This agreement has ensured that the company has built steady profits.
“The last part of that agreement is to agree modernisation of the business. Royal Mail are now ignoring that element of the agreement and implementing arbitrary cuts in costs without modernising.”
Announcing the strike, CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward said: “Royal Mail is blocking modernisation by refusing to negotiate change with the CWU.
“We have offered a moratorium on all strike action if Royal Mail will suspend executive action and enter into meaningful negotiations. We want to bring forward the successful transformation of the business by working together.”
He added: “There is growing unrest across the country as Royal Mail tries to impose damaging cuts and changes without the input of union reps. The future of the business must be safeguarded through careful planning, not shooting from the hip.”
Royal Mail issued a statement yesterday claiming: “The proposed revisions in London ask no more of employees than in the rest of the UK and we are only putting in place changes that result directly from the changes to the amount and type of mail we are now carrying and which are already agreed with the CWU as part of the 2007 deal.”
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson also gave further evidence of his antipathy towards the trade union movement, claiming that lack of CWU co-operation was the root of the problem.
“This action is highly regrettable and typical of the problems Royal Mail is facing,” he said.
“Striking is not the solution. The Royal Mail needs urgent reform and this will only happen if the CWU co-operates in making it happen,” he said.
Up to 10,000 CWU members are set to engage in the 24-hour strike on June 19 from all sections of Royal Mail.
Meanwhile, the government is determined to continue with its plans to part-privatise the postal service in the face of strong opposition from its own back benches.
There has been speculation that the government would back down on the deeply unpopular proposal, particularly in light of its recent catastrophic election results.
A predicted back-bench rebellion would mean that Labour will require Tory support to pass the Bill, further weakening its tenuous position.
But Business Minister Pat McFadden insisted that the government remained “committed” to its proposal to privatise. Despite this, no firm date has been set for a second reading of the Bill.