Just give us a proper pay rise and leave our terms and conditions alone!

It isn’t too much to ask for when the weight of 500-year-old Royal Mail is carried on the shoulders of postal workers. 

From processing to delivery, it’s the postal workers that make this company its fortune. However, since privatisation, Royal Mail has been run into the ground for shareholder greed. Those at the very top – the CEO and the board – are completely mismanaging the company to the detriment of its 140,000 employees (many of whom are members of the Communication Workers Union). 

When Royal Mail was privatised in 2014, over £2 billion has left the company and gone into the purses and pockets of shareholders, with over a quarter of that occurring in the last six months alone. Yet those at the top of Royal Mail would have you believe that the company is struggling.

To “save the company”, under the guise of “modernisation” the CEO and the board of Royal Mail are planning to turn this essential public service into another gig economy parcel courier company. 

Photo Credit: Chris Moses [www.gulabi.co.uk]

I’m sure you are already aware of some of the changes Royal Mail want to implement, but I’ll highlight a few, which will hopefully provide some insight as to why we are taking strike action; changes to start times of delivery workers of up to three hours – which will make Royal Mail Group the only courier company that doesn’t deliver during the AM period; changes to the way technology is used, so that an employee’s every move will be surveilled and anyone unable to achieve unrealistic efficiency targets can be more easily dismissed, and the introduction of owner-drivers, meaning employees will be delivering parcels out of their own vehicles – stepping away from the symbolic Royal Mail vans. This might explain why Royal Mail have been allowing vans to fall into disrepair, making a large proportion of those vehicles unsafe to drive. 

Royal Mail also want to make changes to sick pay and attendance procedures, which would see workers no longer receiving full pay when off for a second absence in the same year. For employees unfortunate to be experiencing difficult periods in their lives, instead of support they are likely to be forced out the door more quickly. This is in addition to Sunday working becoming compulsory for all employees, including those that have been hired on a five over six day working rotation contract. 

Despite profits from letters being around 40% of last year’s profit margins – over £300 million of the £758 million – Royal Mail plan to phase out the delivery of letters. This is currently being done by prioritising the delivery of parcels, leaving mail untouched and piling up. They’ve also made a request to the Government and Ofcom, to end mail deliveries on Saturdays. This could mean the end to the six-day a week, one price goes anywhere postal service Universal Service Obligation (USO) –, and would be the first step towards ending it completely. To achieve this, Royal Mail want to shut down multiple mail centres and delivery offices. If this is to go ahead, the actual number of staff redundancies will be well over the 10,000 announced by the company in October. 

It was Royal Mail CEO Simon Thompson’s idea for talks with the CWU to be facilitated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), but he doesn’t attend these meetings with regularity, leaving the leaders of the CWU in discussions with managers who have little or no decision-making authority. However, it appears the CEO is able to find plenty of time to condemn his own employees on Workplace – the Facebook/Meta owned communication platform for businesses. 

The CEO is also undermining the negotiations by attacking the CWU and its members. Most recently, he has hired union busters into the top level of his management structure, who have been pressuring lower-level managers into fabricating allegations against CWU Representatives and members. This is being done to justify suspending local union reps and any employee who is a CWU member and create an environment of fear, making employees more likely to break industrial action. This has seen over 100 CWU Representatives currently suspended on fabricated allegations. When these tactics have failed to have the desired effect managers have hoped for – more workers breaking the strike, leading to industrial action being called off – chairs, microwaves and anything considered a form of comfort, have been removed from canteens and break areas. There are reports of employees being told that if they wish to use the bathroom, they must now raise their hand to ask for permission. The leadership of Royal Mail have stooped to an all-time low in their efforts to break the trade union and striker’s spirits. This has included the withdrawal of sick pay to anyone currently off sick, regardless of when the absence started, reasons for the absence and even if there is documented medical evidence of their inability to perform the role expected of them by Royal Mail.

Your postal workers don’t want to strike. They don’t want to be losing money, especially at this time of year. But, as you’ve seen above, our employer has left us no other choice. We are not withdrawing our labour to only protect our own jobs and T&Cs, but to protect the service we provide for our customers. 

Despite losing over two weeks wages during the current financial crisis, postal workers across Glasgow have still done some incredible work for their local communities. In addition to co-creating the ‘Sizzling Solidarity/Posties with the Mosties’ calendar to raise money for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), tenants’ union Living Rent and Milk Café (a local community organisation which works with refugee and migrant women), multiple Royal Mail offices have been collecting food for local people in need.   

But what does all this mean for you? Well, it would mean no mail on Saturdays to start, then the complete end of Universal Service Obligation and Royal Mail deliveries in all rural areas. No more AM deliveries. Intimidation and threats increasing for your local postal workers, impacting on their health and ability to provide the service we have all grown so used to. And finally, the destruction of one of the great institutions of our society, that has provided a service for over 500 years. 

Never in the history of Royal Mail has there been a greater attack on postal workers, and we need your support. We need your support to hold the CEO and the board accountable for their treatment of Royal Mail employees, for the breakup and threats to sell off Royal Mail, and for what seems to be an intentional destruction of the public service. 

Not one year ago we were hailed as heroes. You clapped at your doorsteps and left us notes to show your appreciation for the work we do. 

Now, we need your support more than ever.

Please get down to your local Royal Mail office on any of the strike days to show your local postal workers that you support the action we are taking and show Royal Mail that the public are behind us, not them. 

Written by a Royal Mail employee.

Royal Mail workers will be taking industrial action on 23rd and 24th December 2022. 

Comments (10)

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  1. Derek Williams says:

    Selling the farm to pay for the animals is never a good idea. Services and institutions such as mail, roads, education, water, power, healthcare, police and the military that serve the entire nation should be primarily owned and managed by the state, even if there are parallel boutique services. If the state does a bad job, then it will just have to be made to do a better one, not sold to for-profit enterprise to do an even worse one.

  2. Lindsey Spowage says:

    Appalling – I weep for England and fight for the right of Scotland to do the right thing …

  3. Alan C says:

    Every day it becomes more obvious that we need to exit this forced ‘union’ As a retired postman you have my full support and sympathy.

  4. Axel P Kulit says:

    a few random unorganised thoughts

    The changes the GPO are pushing will affect the workers and the customers.

    Are postmen using their own vehicles still insured and will the GPO pay the insurance?

    The changes will favour other private delivery companies and cause an exodus of postmen.

    Will the employees who leave be replaced by robots and drones?

    The salaries at the top are a bad look but not relevant to the business health: They could be doubled and be little more than rounding error on the accounts. Similarly with shareholder dividends.

    Which makes me think this is more about power than money

    Removal of delivery to rural areas? I would like to see them sued when a pensioner in a remote area gets no letters and a bailiff turns up unexpectedly.

    No more letters? 40% of profits? Is this insanity or is there a hidden agenda?

    It looks to me like the GPO has not thought through the adverse consequences of their plans or aim to externalise these. How many of the top management have shares in other delivery companies and jobs with them?

    1. Alan C says:

      Going back a bit there Axel, GPO? You must be around my vintage, there has been no GPO sinse 1969.

  5. florian albert says:

    I wish all Royal Mail employees well in their dispute with management.
    However, there is a serious problem not dealt with in the article; the ongoing collapse in the number of letters being delivered.
    In 2005, Royal Mail delivered 20 billion letters; by 2021 it had fallen to 7.7 billion. Almost certainly, it will continue to fall.
    That is a reduction of 12,300,000,000 letters per year. Royal Mail, until recently, existed to deliver letters. Management believe there is no future in this. I, sadly, think they are right. The Universal Service Obligation – to deliver to all UK addresses six days a week – is, as the author acknowledges, largely ignored.
    Instead, management sees the future in delivering parcels. This means competing with competitors who are ahead in the game; DPD, Amazon, Yodel etc.
    Not so long ago, milkmen (I never encountered any women doing that job) were part of the fabric our society. I fear that ‘posties’ may go the same way.

    1. Wul says:

      Your arithmetic is a bit off here:
      “In 2005, Royal Mail delivered 20 billion letters; by 2021 it had fallen to 7.7 billion. …..That is a reduction of 12,300,000,000 letters per year. ”

      If you’re figures are correct, it is a reduction of 760 million letters per year (12.3Bn over the 16 year period)

      1. florian albert says:

        A fair point. I was lax in the way I described the collapse in Royal Mail’s core business in the last two decades or so.
        That does not alter the fact that it faces an existential crisis. Coal miners and shipbuilders suffered a similar crisis in the last two generations. In Scotland, neither of these industries exist in any meaningful form. Both industries had far stronger unions than the CWU.
        The problem is more basic than the ‘neo-liberal business model’. The problem is a product – posted letters – which, as the numbers I quote show, fewer and fewer people need.

    2. Derek Williams says:

      The core aim of all business is to minimise cost, maximise profit – even if that means running your business without a single human being in it, much the way online banking, driverless trains, and automated checkouts at Tescos are trending. This inevitably means employment as we know it will one day no longer exist.

      There’s not a job on the planet that cannot already, or won’t soon be able to be performed faster, cheaper and better by a robot. This will one day perforce include teaching, medicine, and running a household. In the military, drones are fast replacing humans already. I can learn a new language on my iPhone with no human interaction whatsoever. So, society needs to stop demonising people thrown out of work by this process, and start contemplating a utopia, once the stuff of science fiction, wherein no-one is forced to work to survive, everyone receives a UBI, and you’re free to pursue being a musician, a painter, a poet, or run a boutique business in any area of your interest without starving in the process. This is the melding of socialist and capitalist models into one.

      In this model, since no-one has a job, so industry will be forced to follow Bill Gates’s mantra, “Tax the robot that takes your job”, since it cannot function without its customer base, who obviously cannot survive without any income.

  6. Wul says:

    It’s a perfect illustration of how the neo-liberal business model ultimately impoverishes the societies it operates in.

    All of us will suffer if we don’t oppose this.

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