Postal workers at the Royal Mail Group in the UK will escalate their struggle for a pay rise to help them cope with the ongoing cost of living crisis. Last week, the leadership of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) at the Royal Mail Group announced strikes – on August 26, August 31, September 8 and September 9 – in protest against the meager 2% hike offered by the management for tackling inflation. Around 115,000 postal workers are likely to participate in the upcoming strikes. After three months of inconclusive negotiations between the CWU and the Royal Mail authorities, 77% of the registered workers participated in the strike ballot, of which 98% voted in favor of the strikes. The CWU also served strike notices to telecommunication groups such as the BT Group and Openreach.
According to postal workers, the sector reported £35 million (USD 42.25 million) in profits in 2020-21 and £39 million (USD 47.08 million) in 2021-22. However, the employee grades represented by the CWU did not get any pay rise in 2021-22, while a mere 2% hike was offered for 2022-23.
The CWU has slammed the controversial ‘Scabs’ Charter’ introduced by the government and the disinformation campaign led by the postal authorities to malign the protests. The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 – dubbed by trade unions as the Scabs’ Charter – was passed by the Tory-majority House of Commons on July 11. It includes several anti-worker provisions like increasing fines against unions for industrial actions that are deemed “illegal.” It also allows for agency workers to replace workers on strike.
Jane Loftus, vice-president and postal chair of the CWU, told Socialist Worker, “It’s outrageous that Royal Mail, a company awash with profits and handing millions to its top bosses, wants to cut the pay of the workforce in real terms. Everywhere now people are saying they have had enough and aren’t going to take this sort of treatment anymore.”
“We want our pay strikes to be an encouragement to others to fight. Royal Mail management may well act in a ruthless way, but the CWU can beat them if we use all our strength. We’re looking for support and solidarity from workers everywhere,” Loftus added.
Workers across sectors in the UK are reeling under an acute cost of living crisis marked by high inflation. Trade unions in various sectors including transport, health, and higher education have already organized strikes and various other forms of protests.