Postal workers in Chester could join colleagues across the country in striking this Christmas unless a deal can be struck over pay, pensions and a shorter working week.
Communication Workers Union (CWU) is balloting more than 100,000 postal workers for industrial action in Royal Mail Group.
And this morning a workplace meeting took place outside the Station Road delivery office in Chester as part of the ongoing dispute.
This will be the first national call to action since Royal Mail was privatised and the biggest dispute to date under new trade union laws that require a 50% turnout of eligible union members.
Postal workers say they are under relentless pressure to work faster and cheaper. In local offices, resources are stretched to breaking point and delivery rounds just keep getting longer and later.
The CWU says postal workers’ pay has been frozen and pensions slashed.
Feelings are running high among postal workers who claim Royal Mail views part-time, temporary and insecure employment practices as the model for the future.
Siôn Harris, CWU area representative for North Wales and Marches branch, said: “Over the last 18 months, the CWU have been pushing for what we’ve dubbed the four pillars of security.
“The first pillar of security is dignity in retirement, that gives an affordable pension to everybody. The second pillar is the drive for a 35-hour gross working week and an above inflation pay rise. The third pillar of security is the redesign of the pipeline (Royal Mail’s plan for growth) and the fourth pillar of security is the extension of our legally binding national agreement.
“This is the gist of what we’re after, only what the business can afford to give, currently Royal Mail have made approximately £700m profit this year. The union is only asking for a share for its members.”
Mr Harris said strike action was a last resort which he hopes can be avoided but warned of ‘quite grave’ consequences for workers, the business and customers if agreement can not be reached.
“What we are doing is trying to maximise the ‘yes’ vote to put pressure on Royal Mail to come to the negotiation table to get us a deal. We are not after strike action but that may be inevitable if they do not come round the table and talk to us,” he added.
A Royal Mail spokesperson said the company had engaged with the CWU on the core principles of its ‘four pillars’.
He added: “Royal Mail is very disappointed that the CWU has issued a formal notice to ballot for industrial action. We believe there are no grounds for industrial action. We remain committed to reaching a negotiated agreement with the CWU on pay and pensions, and other issues we have been discussing. A ballot does not necessarily mean there will be industrial action.”