The latest unofficial strike by postal workers last week came amid a tumultuous few days for Royal Mail, including the forced resignation of a top boss.
Members of the CWU union at a Royal Mail delivery office in Blaydon, Gateshead, walked out last Thursday morning over bullying and harassment involving a manager.
The CWU Newcastle Amal branch said the walkout ended a few hours later, with the manager moved and no loss of pay for strikers.
It was the latest in a steady stream of unofficial walkouts at delivery offices—all over bullying and harassment by managers.
Bosses pressure workers into coming in early, accepting overtime because deliveries can’t be completed in normal working hours, or “lapsing”—taking on sections of other routes.
A deal between CWU leaders and bosses earlier this year promised a “change in culture” to deal with workplace stress and bullying. But little seems to be changing.
CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger spent the bulk of a question and answer session on Facebook last Tuesday dealing with workplace culture.
“Changing a culture takes time,” he said. “You’re not just changing the culture of management, you’re also changing the culture of our people as well. Sometimes we have to look in the mirror.”
CWU members watching the video demanded action.
One commented, “The workload is totally unacceptable, the amount of parcels that we are doing now is unbelievable.
“We are not donkeys—the workforce is dropping to bits.”
Another said, “It’s time HQ told senior management enough is enough!”
Pullinger was supposed to have been joined by Royal Mail chief executive officer Sue Whalley—but she pulled out at short notice.
The next morning news broke that Royal Mail’s directors had forced Whalley to resign.
She apparently took the rap for problems including falling profits and uncertainty about a pensions deal. Royal Mail’s half-year results, set to be released this week, were expected to show a fall in profits.
And a planned new pension scheme—at the heart of a deal between the CWU and Royal Mail—is in trouble.
The deal hopes to introduce a new type of pension scheme called collective defined contribution (CDC).
But this can’t be brought in unless the government passes new laws to allow it.
Last week the government launched a consultation into doing this—which could last for years.
More worryingly for workers, the new scheme could see them lose out.
The amount paid out will depend on how well fund managers invest the pension pot on the market. If there’s a crash, workers will get less.
Last week pensions consultant John Ralfe warned the “structurally flawed” idea had been cooked up for “entirely political” reasons “to head off a strike”.
He said, “It is likely pensioners could see a reduction in their incomes.
“A CDC scheme can work only with strict regulation. I predict it will fail.”
Royal Mail appointed a new deputy chair last week, Keith Williams, said by the bosses’ Financial Times newspaper to have a “background in worker relations”.
It’s a sign that bosses are anxious about workers’ action.