After seven months of talks between Royal Mail and the CWU, International Distributions Services has announced that it has tabled its best and final offer.
The revised offer includes improvements that have been made during the negotiations with the CWU, including an improved pay deal of up to 9% over 18 months, a new profit share scheme for employees, more generous voluntary redundancy proposals, and later start and finish times to accommodate staff with families. It has made Sunday working voluntary, phasing the removal of the Sunday allowance and changing the seasonal working proposals so that employees would only work around two hours less a week in the summer, and two hours more in the winter – with 4-10 weeks’ notice for employees. Additionally, yearly flexi hours are being trialled before they are introduced at a later date. The company has also committed to no compulsory redundancies until the end of March 2023 at the earliest. Alongside this, Royal Mail has offered to buy out a number of legacy allowances.
The CWU has announced 10 further days of strike action between November 24 and December 24, of which four have been formally notified (November 24, 25, 30 and December 1). Royal Mail stated that although it has made a number of concessions and improvements over seven months, the CWU leadership has consistently rejected offers without putting them to their members. In October 2022 Royal Mail announced losses of £219m (US$264m) in the first half of the year. The company has asserted that further action would also necessitate further restructuring and headcount reduction – on top of the reduction of 10,000 full-time equivalents (FTE) roles already announced.
As a result, Royal Mail has urged the CWU to accept the offer and call off planned strike action. It also said that proposals from the CWU that it had deemed unaffordable had reappeared; these included demands to reduce the current 37-hour working week without any corresponding change in pay, estimated to cost around £100m (US$120m) a year. According to the postal company, further deterioration in the company’s financial position caused by industrial action will rapidly make the pay offer unaffordable and it may need to be withdrawn.
Dave Ward, general secretary of the CWU, said, “We are disappointed that instead of reaching a compromise to avoid major disruption, Royal Mail has chosen to pursue such an aggressive strategy. We will not accept that 115,000 Royal Mail workers – the people who kept us connected during the pandemic and made millions in profit for bosses and shareholders – take such a devastating blow to their livelihoods. These proposals spell the end of Royal Mail as we know it, and its degradation from a national institution into an unreliable, Uber-style gig economy company. Make no mistake about it – British postal workers are facing an Armageddon moment. We urge every member of the public to stand with their postie, and back them like never before.”
Simon Thompson, CEO of Royal Mail, said, “Talks have lasted for seven months and we have made numerous improvements and two pay offers, which would now see up to a 9% pay increase over 18 months alongside a host of other enhancements. This is our best and final offer. Negotiations involve give and take, but it appears that the CWU’s approach is to just take. We want to reach a deal, but time is running out for the CWU to change their position and avoid further damaging strike action tomorrow. The strikes have already added £100m [US$120m] to Royal Mail’s losses so far this year. In a materially loss-making company, with every additional day of strike action we are facing the difficult choice of about whether we spend our money on pay and protecting jobs, or on the cost of strikes. The CWU’s planned strike action is holding Christmas to ransom for our customers, businesses and families across the country, and is putting their own members’ jobs at risk.”