CWU puts strike on hold as RM talks continue

By Simon Nias, Thursday 31 October 2013

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The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has postponed the 24-hour strike planned for Monday 4 November following progress in its talks with Royal Mail.

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The union is in dispute with the recently-privatised postal operator on the issues of "pay, pensions and the impact of privatisation on job security [and] terms and conditions".

It announced the one-day walkout on 16 October, days after Royal Mail's shares began open trading, although it has now agreed to stand down Monday's strike to allow both parties to focus on reaching an agreement.

In return, Royal Mail has agreed to extend the legal validity of the CWU's current industrial action ballot from 15 November to 20 November, leaving open the possibility for strike action to take place should a deal fail to materialise.

Royal Mail and the CWU issued a joint statement yesterday (30 October) in which they commited to "finalising an agreement in the next two weeks". According to the statement, the agreement will include:

  •     Legal protections for employees that extend beyond the current three year offer
  •     An improved pay and reward offer
  •     A separate pensions agreement
  •     An agenda for growth underpinned by a culture of consensual change, timely decision making and industrial stability supported by alternative dispute resolution processes
  •     An agreed approach to aligning resourcing to workload with a resolution to any current workload and resourcing issues
  •     An overview of the future parcels and letters strategy
  •     A joint company/CWU charter shaping the on-going values and principles of the Royal Mail Group
  •     An on-going operational programme of work


The two parties said that an overall agreement would depend on all the elements outlined above being agreed.

No mention was made of the separate and ongoing issue of downstream access mail, which the CWU has threatened repeatedly to boycott.

However, A CWU spokeswoman said that a recently-announced ballot for industrial action over the issue of DSA mail would also be postponed while the union and Royal Mail attempted to reach an agreement on the problems of pay, pensions and job security.

Meanwhile, Royal Mail share price is currently around 550p, some 67% above its IPO price of 330p, on the back of "irrational exuberance" on the part of would-be investors.

While this means that Royal Mail employees who took part in the free share offer have landed a sizeable windfall, they will not be able to sell their shares for three years from the IPO.

In addition the implied dividend yield of 6.1% (based on the IPO price of 330p per share) has fallen to 3.6% based on the current, higher share price.

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