Royal Mail workers in west London strike in dispute over pay

Image above: opening hours of Chiswick Post Office’s Enquiry Office taped over; photograph Bridget Osborne

Chiswick Sorting Office affected by strike action

West London’s sorting offices are affected by national strike action today (31 August), as members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) protest for better pay and conditions.

Earlier this month, CWU members voted 97.6% in favour of strike action in the hope of achieving a “dignified, proper pay rise” in the face of the rising cost of living.

Today’s action by the Royal Mail Group is part of a wider package of strikes which began last Friday (26 August), with two other walkouts planned on Thursday 8 September and Friday 9 September.

Royal Mail says it has offered CWU members a 5.5% pay rise, and has cited the company’s precarious financial situation as a key reason why pay cannot keep pace with inflation.

In its financial statement for 2021-22, Royal Mail reports group revenues up by 0.6% to £12.712 billion and adjusted operating profit up by 8% to £758 million. Royal Mail’s domestic operations saw profits up by 20.9% to £416 million though revenues fell by 1.6% to £8.514 billion. The company says despite turning a profit, it is losing £1m per day.

Image above: CWU banner outside Chiswick Post Office

How are services affected?

Royal Mail has said letters will not be delivered on strike days but post offices will remain open. The company has apologised to customers, but says it has plans to minimise the disruption.

On days when strike action is taking place, Royal Mail says it will deliver as many special delivery and tracked 24 parcels as possible; prioritise the delivery of Covid test kits and medical prescriptions wherever possible but will not be delivering letters (with the exception of special delivery).

Royal Mail says it cannot guarantee delivery of all special delivery items by 9.00am or 1.00pm the next day, so it is suspending the regular guarantees while strike action is occurring.

A poster outside of Chiswick’s main Post Office in Heathfield Terrace states:

‘We’re very sorry for any disruption this may cause. We’ll do everything we can to minimise disruption and return our services to normal as quickly as possible’

‘To avoid delays, please post your items as early as you can in advance of these strike dates. Items can be posted in Postboxes or Post Offices, however, collections will be less frequent on days when strike action is taking place’

Postal workers “pushed to the brink”

Dave Ward, CWU general secretary, said:

“Nobody takes the decision to strike lightly, but postal workers are being pushed to the brink.

“There can be no doubt that postal workers are completely united in their determination to secure the dignified, proper pay rise they deserve.” Dave added:

“[Workers] can’t keep on living in a country where bosses rake in billions in profit while their employees are forced to use food banks.

“The CWU’s message to Royal Mail’s leadership is simple – there will be serious disruption until you get real on pay.”

Ricky McAulay, operations director at Royal Mail, accused the union of failing to engage in “any meaningful discussion” after months of talks. He said:

“The CWU rejected our offer worth up to 5.5 per cent for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years,” he said.

“In a business that is currently losing £1m a day, we can only fund this offer by agreeing the changes that will pay for it.”

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