By Yadarisa Shabong and Pushkala Aripaka
(Reuters) – Royal Mail (LON:)’s proposals to take a pay dispute to conciliation and change its policies following months of failed negotiations have angered its largest labour union, intensifying the fight between two sides at loggerheads.
The British postal company, which has been working on a transformation plan to shift its focus to parcels amid sliding letter volumes, said on Thursday it had informed the Communication Workers Union (CWU) that it wants to “modernise the ways of working with them”.
“As part of this, Royal Mail will review or serve notice on a number of historic agreements and policies which are currently being used by the CWU to frustrate transformation, and intends to move to a more modern industrial relations framework,” the more than 500-year-old company said.
In an e-mailed statement to Reuters, CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said the union would oppose moves that would see “such an historic institution being turned into a gig economy employer.”
“Royal Mail management has tried to blindside the CWU to directly inform employees that their job security, working standards and union representation is under imminent threat …They won’t be cowed into submission and will continue fighting to defend decent jobs and British industry,” Ward said.
The British company and the CWU have been in a deadlock over pay since April, and the union called strikes in late August and early September which cost the company about 1 million pounds ($1.13 million) each day of its first quarter.
The CWU, which represents more than 115,000 postal workers at Royal Mail, has plans for more action on Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, prompting Royal Mail to propose taking talks with the CWU to the publicly funded, independent ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) to help find a resolution.
Royal Mail said it was entitled to serve notice on old agreements and policies based on a deal signed at the time of its privatisation in 2013 that allowed it to do so in the event of the union holding national strike action.
Royal Mail said its proposed changes would help move from “a system where the CWU has many powers to veto and block change, to a more consultative relationship.”
Shortly after the company issued its press release, the CWU said in a Facebook (NASDAQ:) post its negotiators were meeting with Royal Mail and called on workers to support planned strike action.
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