Royal Mail issues ultimatum to CWU

Jo Francis
Thursday, September 22, 2022

Royal Mail has taken drastic action to break the impasse over ongoing industrial action by involving ACAS, and has also told the CWU that it plans to serve notice on a number of historic agreements – a move the union described as “sickening”.

Royal Mail wants reform to speed up decision making on a daily basis
Royal Mail wants reform to speed up decision making on a daily basis

This morning (22 September) Royal Mail issued an update on industrial relations that stated: “The CWU has blocked any meaningful discussion on the change agenda the company has set out, and has not put forward any viable alternatives that will fund further pay increases.”

The group has written to the CWU to propose that talks should now be taken to ACAS. 

It has also informed the union that in order to modernise ways of working, 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”.

Royal Mail described the current arrangements as “a complex web of CWU agreements and structures”, and said it intended to move to a more modern industrial relations framework designed to make the business more agile, and able to compete more effectively.

Royal Mail also stated that the Agenda for Growth agreement that was signed when Royal Mail was privatised in 2013, entitles Royal Mail to give notice on certain undertakings in the event that CWU takes national scale industrial action. 

“To date, CWU has taken national industrial action on three dates –26 August, 31 August and 8 September 2022, and has announced two further strike dates on 30 September and 1 October 2022.”

The CWU reacted with fury. 

In a tweet, the union said that its leadership team had been meeting Royal Mail Group to open talks to resolve the dispute when the bombshell announcement was made. 

The CWU said the moves represented “an all out attack on your union” and were the beginning of the employer’s plan “to make Royal Mail Group a gig economy standard employer”.

 The CWU missive also urged workers to support strike action planned for next week and beyond. 

Royal Mail Group also reiterated the £92m operating loss made by Royal Mail in Q1, to 30 June. At the time it said the loss was due to “inflexibility in the cost base to adjust to lower volumes and disappointing performance on delivery of further efficiencies”.

Royal Mail said that it wanted to take a number of steps to modernise, including:

  • speed up decision making on a daily basis – currently CWU Reps in units across the company negotiate and allocate overtime, annual leave and the hours that people work
  • trial and introduce new technology more quickly – Royal Mail has invested tens of millions of pounds in new technology to improve the customer experience, but has been restricted from using the information to improve performance and safety
  • revise attendance policy to address persistent instances of short term absence
  • reduce complexity and cost – we will review the commercial and IR agreements governing the current CWU structures in Royal Mail to ensure arrangements are fit for purpose
  • remain competitive and retain our position as the best employer in our industry, with the best pay, pensions and conditions.

The overall group, including overseas parcels business GLS, had sales of £12.71bn in its latest financial year and an operating profit of £577m, down 5.6%.

Shares in Royal Mail slipped to a 52-week low of 207.35p following the news. The share price has lost 60% of its value this year.

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