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Royal Mail’s race to the bottom

As disputes intensify, Liam Kennedy explains the history and wider context to ongoing postal workers’ strikes

2 minute read

A group of men stand behind a banner that reads: Keep the post public

On Monday 31 October, Royal Mail management intensified their ongoing assault on postal workers. While CWU officials met with Royal Mail senior management at ACAS (the government body which helps to resolve industrial disputes), the company briefed the media that they were looking to impose a below-inflation pay offer on workers alongside a number of regressive changes to previously agreed terms and conditions.

The background to the dispute is that Royal Mail, having posted record profits of £768 million in the last financial year, imposed a 2 per cent pay deal on members at a time when RPI inflation is running at 12.6 per cent. Shareholders have received payouts totaling almost £200 million over the past 12 months alone, while workers are being threatened with a variety of changes that would help transition Royal Mail into a gig economy employer.

The CWU has announced further strike dates for November and December in response to Royal Mail’s latest act of aggression. The truth is, outside of Royal Mail, the parcel delivery market is absolutely rife with labour exploitation.

Royal Mail is the only company that directly employs their staff while their main competitors – Amazon, Evri, DHL etc. – rely on bogusly self-employed drivers that do not receive the minimum wage, sick pay or (in most cases) annual leave.

The Royal Mail agenda, therefore, is a race to the bottom. Without wider efforts to organise drivers outside of Royal Mail or substantive policy changes from above (for example, to outlaw bogus self-employment as detailed in the Labour Party’s New Deal for Working People green paper), the sector is facing a bleak future.

Postal workers are not only fighting for their jobs and decent pay but for standards which should really be implemented for all delivery drivers.

Liam Kennedy is a Red Pepper editor

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