Staff at Royal Mail Group have revealed strike intentions only a few days after the company launched its annual Christmas recruitment drive for additional staff to help with peak.
Members of the Communications Workers Union voted by 89.1% this week to take strike action over changes to their pension scheme, something David Jinks, head of consumer research at ParcelHero says could have a significant impact on Christmas. “Even if the strikes are limited it will have significant consequences across the industry as other delivery companies try to absorb the extra volumes at this hugely busy period,” he said.
It has been rumoured that strikes could occur on occur on Black Friday and the following day, one of the busiest days of the year for many retailers but Royal Mail says that no dates have yet been confirmed and that it is working hard on resolving the dispute.
“A ballot result for industrial action does not necessarily mean there will be industrial action. Royal Mail is committed to further talks as a matter of urgency, to reach agreement with the CWU,” said the company in a statement.
It also claimed that action pre-Christmas was not possible. “In 2013, Royal Mail and the CWU committed to the Agenda for Growth (AFG) – a legally binding agreement. Royal Mail has brought to the CWU’s attention the contractual dispute resolution procedures included in the AFG, which both sides are required to follow once instigated. They escalate to independent external mediation, which we expect will take close to Christmas to be completed, and may be longer. We believe these dispute resolution procedures must be followed. The union cannot take industrial action until they have been completed,” the statement continued.
Whatever happens the threat of action should mean retailers look again at their carrier plans, according to Bobby Shome, business development director EMEA at Centiro, who warns against a reliance on one provider.
“The news of a Royal Mail strike should set alarm bells ringing for retailers as they head into their busiest time of the year. It is a stark reminder to retailers not to put all their eggs into one basket as relying too heavily on one carrier can leave them high and dry if it is suddenly unable to fulfil an order,” he said.
Royal Mail revealed last week that it was looking for around 20,000 temporary workers across the UK in Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide for positions available from late October through until early January 2018. The company is looking to recruit around 18,000 workers across its core network in the UK, including around 1,000 workers based at the super Parcel Sort Centre at Atherstone in Warwickshire.
Royal Mail Group’s express parcel business, Parcelforce Worldwide, is also recruiting around 2,100 extra people, including around 1,200 drivers and around 900 parcel sorters.
Image credit: Royal Mail