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Postal workers in the UK launch Black Friday strike as industrial action sweeps the country

LONDON – Attackers from the CWU trade union attend the picket line at the Peckham Royal Mail Center on November 24, 2022 in London, England. Strikes planned for the Black Friday weekend and the run-up to Christmas will go ahead after talks between Royal Mail and the Telecommunications Workers’ Union ended without agreement.

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LONDON — Thousands of postal workers in the United Kingdom have launched a two-day strike, disrupting Black Friday after talks between… royal mail The Communications Workers Union collapsed.

Union leaders, which represent around 115,000 postal workers on strike, returned to negotiations with Royal Mail executives early last month, with talks now spanning seven months.

However, Royal Mail Group – recently renamed International distribution services On the London Stock Exchange – it said in a statement on Wednesday that it had made the “best and last offer” and accused the union of “making Christmas a ransom”.

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The CWU announced 10 more days of strike action through Christmas Eve, of which four were officially notified, the last being on December 1.

In October, Royal Mail revealed plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs by next summer, posted an adjusted half-year operating loss of £219m ($265.3m), and chief executive Simon Thompson said the strikes had already added £100m to the company. . losses so far this year. IDS shares are down more than 58% since the start of the year.

“In a financially losing company, with each additional day of strike action, we are faced with a difficult choice whether to spend our money on wages and job protection, or on the cost of strikes,” Thompson said Wednesday.

“The CWU’s planned strike is holding Christmas to ransom our customers, businesses and families across the country, and puts its members’ jobs at risk.”

On Wednesday, the union said it had met with Royal Mail executives, but claimed Thompson did not show up. In a statement, the CWU warned of “the end of Royal Mail as we know it”.

Royal Mail claims its latest offers include an improved pay package of up to 9% over 18 months, a new profit-sharing scheme for staff, a ban on compulsory redundancy until the end of March 2023 and improved voluntary redundancy packages.

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However, the union accused company executives of “turning the Royal Mail Group into a gig-style courier company, dependent on temporary labour”, forcing mandatory redundancies on postal workers while retaining agency staff at lower pay, and offering a “wholly inappropriate, pay rise”. by 3.5%, undated”.

She also said the deal on the table included cuts to sick pay, the elimination of the Sunday premium, later start and finish times and “the introduction of technology that will monitor postal workers every minute of the day.”

BIRMINGHAM, UK – NOVEMBER 24, 2022: Postal workers in the picket line at the Central Delivery Office and Post Center in Birmingham. Members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) are staging a 48-hour strike in a long-running dispute over jobs, wages and terms.

Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images

CWU Secretary-General Dave Ward said: “We will not accept that the 115,000 Royal Mail workers – the people who kept us connected during the pandemic, and made millions in profits from bosses and shareholders – receive such a devastating blow to their livelihoods.”

“These proposals signal the end of Royal Mail as we know it, its decline from a national institution to an unreliable Uber-style company for the temporary economy.”

Postal workers in August voted overwhelmingly to strike to protest wages and conditions, after Royal Mail initially imposed a 2% wage increase on workers as UK inflation headed towards double digits. UK inflation was 11.1% in October.

The union is calling for an improved pay package for 18 months, a guarantee of no mandatory redundancies and “an alternative business strategy that would see Royal Mail Group use its competitive advantage to grow as a business, rather than become an employer integral to the temporary economy.”

Cross-sector strikes

Public and private sector workers are on strike in the UK over wages, working conditions and pensions, with inflation at its highest level in more than 40 years and the Independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) last week predicting the biggest drop in living standards since records began.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that an average of 19,500 working days per month were lost due to industrial strike action in 2019, but this has risen since the Covid-19 pandemic, and reached 87,600 working days in July 2022.

Rail strikes have effectively halted train services in the country for several days throughout the year, and the RMT union, whose members work for Network Rail and 14 other train operators, recently voted in favor of four more 48-hour rail strikes in the run-up to Christmas.

The Royal College of Nursing recently announced that its members will go on strike by the end of the year for the first time in its 106-year history.

The British Medical Association will hold a ballot in January for junior doctors in England on a pay deal that will see them raise 2% this year, while the 18,000 ambulance workers represented by the large unions GMB and Unite are currently voting to strike.

Scottish teachers staged an industrial strike on Thursday that shut down the vast majority of schools in Scotland, and also demanded a 10% pay rise. Several UK teachers’ unions representing a total of more than 400,000 teachers and support staff are holding closed ballots in January.

Telecoms workers went on strike for the first time in more than 30 years in July to protest wages, along with extra dates in August and October, while airline baggage workers walked out for three days on November 18.

About 100,000 civil servants, including Border Force officials, also recently voted to strike over the Christmas period, demanding a 10% increase in their pay.

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