With postal workers already angry at the Royal Mail's decision to impose a 2.9% pay offer, two small wildcat strikes have broken out in Oxford and Wolverhampton
As they were underway, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced its intention to ballot for industrial action.
At the North West Midlands Mail Centre (Wolverhampton), 80 mail-sorters (1/3 of the afternoon shift) walked out in support of a colleague, who they claim had been racially abused last week, with management failing to take action. There is now a backlog of some 800,000 items. Last Wednesday, 80 to 100 mail-sorters walked out after receiving letters about the new pay offer, demanding an explanation as to why a deal had not been negotiated with the union. Workers, after some harassment by management, then staged an hour long sit-in.
Tensions are reportedly high across the service, with management accused of disrupting a consultative ballot on privatisation of the service (denounced as 'political lobbying' by management), and workers are hostile to the new pay offer. The CWU will ballot over strike action next month without progress on the deal, with the union's representative for the Eastern Region saying, “This is as close to the knuckle as it has got in terms of the dispute between the company as its staff. Strike action is now a very strong possibility.”
The Royal Mail has recently been celebrating achieving its highest success rate on record (ie. since targets were introduced 2 years ago) for delivering letters on time and announced a bumper £600m profit. The government is also considering a £2bn subsidy to modernise the company's infrastructure before opening the mail sector to competition. The CWU has warned that the company's post-deregulation plans amount to part-privatisation, as well as 40,000 job cuts and many more reductions in hours.