In October, members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) voted in favour of taking industrial action against the Royal Mail following an ongoing dispute.  As a result, industry analysts are warning of potential huge disruption and additional costs for businesses during the Christmas period if the planned strike action forces them to reroute parcels via other courier services.

Why are CWU members striking?

CWU deputy general secretary postal (DGSP) Terry Pullinger, set out the background of the dispute: “just over one year ago, the Royal Mail Group Board and the CWU agreed a blueprint agreement for the future, an agreement that included an historic pension solution, a mutual-interest-driven relationship and a joint vision for a successful postal service with social aims.”

Since that time, CWU argues, new leadership at Royal Mail and Parcelforce has sought to break the agreement.

CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said: “The workforce has completely rejected the company’s plans to set up a separate parcels business and allow UK postal services and thousands upon thousands of jobs to wither on the vine.”

The continuing dispute led to the strike ballot – and in one of the largest confirmatory votes for many years, CWU members in Royal Mail Group voted by 97.1% in favour of strike action, based on a 76% turnout.

Pullinger responded to the vote, saying: “Our members take honour seriously and have voted to fight for that agreement against those who now seek to break up the Great British Postal service in the interest of fast-track profit and greed.”

Why are CWU targeting Black Friday?

There has been a lot of speculation in the press that the CWU will schedule the planned strike action for the Black Friday weekend so that it has the greatest possible impact.

Stuart Higgins of multinational management consulting firm BearingPoint commented, “A Black Friday strike could represent a major threat to UK retail at a time when the sector is desperate for a much-needed sales boost following a very lacklustre performance this year.”

Black Friday falls on the fourth Friday of November and is a relatively new date in the UK retail calendar.  The tradition was imported from the USA, where the Friday after Thanksgiving is a public holiday in more than 20 states.  The day is considered to be the start of the Christmas shopping season and is the day on which many online retailers offer extreme discounts on their products.

What will be the effects for retailers?

The following Monday, known as Cyber Monday, is another important and busy date for retailers.  If the CWU were to schedule their action for this weekend, or the days shortly after, BearingPoint estimates that 8.5 million parcels would have to be handed to private carriers.

Higgins continued: “It is simply not going to be possible for retailers to re-allocate volume to other carriers over that period and the backlog created by an additional 8.5 million parcels over that one weekend could take a number of weeks to recover, dependent upon the length of the strike action, when it is considered on top of what is already an operational peak for sorting offices and parcel carriers across the country in the lead up to Christmas.”

However, as it stands at the moment, union leaders have not announced when the strike will take place, commenting that that this would be “entirely up to the Royal Mail leadership”.

To arrange delivery of packages over the Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Christmas period with confidence, speak with the Same Day Couriers Direct team: 0333 772 1010

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