“Simon Thompson [Royal Mail CEO] is paid £540,000 a year, which is on average 25 times the amount a postal worker earns in a year. Yet, we are being told that we earn too much?”
By Scott Hartles
My family and friends always ask what’s the latest in the dispute between Royal Mail and the CWU. This is what I can say.
As a postal worker you can feel the militancy in the air when you first start. A lot of the conversations with senior postal workers up and down the country are about unofficial walkouts for a variation of reasons. Some of it is comical, some of it would seem ridiculous to most but there was one overriding theme to every walkout, to every dispute, including the current dispute – collectivism. Postal workers stick together in every dispute.
During lockdown, postal workers continued going to work every day, some doing overtime, some choosing to do their contracted hours and no more. Throughout the covid lockdown measures, us postal workers were forced to risk our lives every day and it was the busiest it had been in a long time. It was constantly like the Christmas pressure except we had to socially distance where possible and those who could work throughout were afraid of taking covid home to their families. It was one of the busiest periods in history and Royal Mail made record breaking profits of 726 million pounds during these covid regulations. Then, they paid out 567 million pounds in dividends to shareholders.
Now if you will indulge me dear reader, let us fast forward to November 2022 where Royal Mail made a “best and final offer” on pay, terms and conditions, voluntary redundancy packages, sick pay etc. However, what was offered was an insult to postal workers up and down the country who made those record-breaking profits. The offer included a two-tier workforce, the removal of the first 3 days of sick leave paid (currently postal workers receive 6 months full sick pay then goes down to half), a proposal that included postal delivery workers still out delivering in the dark in the winter, and the removal of many callers’ offices (where you go to collect your parcel if you aren’t home).
At one point, CEO Simon Thompson and his senior management team were threatening CWU members with compulsory redundancy. His reason for this threat was apparently because Royal Mail are in such a dire financial position. The real reason – it was another attempt at intimidating postal workers. This was quickly taken off the table after CWU made it clear that this would not be acceptable. With regard to redundancies, Royal Mail have taken executive action and members are leaving on lesser terms leaving with around 9 month’s wages. CWU has an agreement with Royal Mail that accepting voluntary redundancy pays around 2 years wages. This agreement has been blatantly ignored.
Simon Thompson is paid £540,000 a year, which is on average 25 times the amount a postal worker earns in a year. Yet, we are being told that we earn too much? Simon Thompson also received a bonus of £140,000. You must be wondering, how any CEO be rewarded such a generous bonus whilst their employer under their supervision is losing £1,000,000 a day? Well, shockingly, Simon Thompson’s bonus scheme was changed to disregard the lack of profit or the loses being made. The CEO’s bonus is now based on dividend payments given to shareholders.
In February 2023 the CWU’s reballot result was announced. The total ballot return was 77.33% with 95.93% voting yes. This is a turnout of over 82,000 members, with just over 3,500 voting no. This ballot result was momentous for many reasons, one being that after 18 days of industrial action postal workers are still up for the fight. The result also sent a strong message to senior management in Royal Mail – postal workers are still united in our fight for the future of the institution, to get a fair pay rise, and that we deserve the terms and conditions generations before us fought so hard for. The ballot result sent a strong message to senior management that they need to come to the table with the union and negotiate a settlement that is suitable for postal workers. Which is where the dispute is now.
Local representatives were tasked with reaching an agreement on shift patterns and other workplace issues. Unfortunately, not many offices reached an agreement in the one-week timeframe. The next step is that it is now with both head offices, and they will decide on the local issues.
I conclude with this, this dispute is this generation’s miner’s strike. We aren’t just fighting for our jobs; we are also fighting for the future of an entire sector. We are constantly told that we have the best terms and conditions in the industry but we also being told what Amazon are doing, how they provide their service, how they offer same day delivery. The reality is Amazon don’t have the infrastructure that Royal Mail do to provide the universal service obligation (USO). The union are proud to be the gatekeepers of the USO and we must do all we can to protect it.