Why postal workers are going on strike

Post Office walkout will overlap with separate industrial action by Royal Mail staff

Post Office branch in London
(Image credit: Pietro Recchia/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Post Office workers will strike over the bank holiday weekend in an ongoing dispute between the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and the company over pay.

Staff working in 114 crown offices – the larger directly-managed Post Office branches – as well as supply chain and admin employees will take part in industrial action on 26 August. Crown office employees will strike again the following day, while supply chain and admin staff will also walk out on 30 August.

The industrial action will overlap with strikes by Royal Mail workers, who will not work on 26 and 31 August, and 8 and 9 September as the CWU continues to call on the company to raise wages for the company’s staff in line with inflation.

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After months of talks, Royal Mail said the union had rejected an offer of a rise “worth up to 5.5%”. That would have been the “biggest increase in years”, said The Guardian, but comes as inflation hit a 40-year high of 10.1%, the paper added.

What will happen?

Many post offices will remain open on the strike days, despite thousands of workers being expected to walk out. The Sun said it’s expected that parcels and letters can still be sent from “sub post-offices and WH Smith stores”.

Royal Mail has separately apologised to customers and hopes to minimise disruption on strike days. Letters won’t be delivered, but the company plans to deliver as many special deliveries and “Tracked 24” parcels as possible, and will be prioritising the delivery of Covid test kits and medical prescriptions.

What is the dispute about?

The CWU has said that of the 72.2% turnout at a vote on whether to take further industrial action, almost 99% of members voted in favour, meaning more than 115,000 postal workers are supporting the motion.

The union’s general secretary, Dave Ward, said: “Postal workers in this country are being pushed to the edge, but there can be no doubt that they will fight the planned erosion of their workplace rights with determination.”

Assistant secretary Andy Furey said that although the Post Office dispute is separate to that of Royal Mail staff, “the issues at stake here are all remarkably similar.

“A profitable company, a workforce who performed exceptionally during the pandemic – as key workers, continuing to attend work throughout – and an arrogant and uncaring senior management who seem dead set on attacking, impoverishing and humiliating its own employees.”

The Post Office dispute is over a pay freeze for 2021-2022 and an offer of a 3% wage increase from 1 April 2022 with a £500 lump sum payment. The union said the offer was “woefully inadequate”.

For Royal Mail workers, “at the heart of the dispute is the loss-making UK postal business”, said The Guardian. In July, the company said it was losing £1m a day. It is now looking to move to “a parcels-led business to cash in on the online shopping boom”.

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