Right-wing commentators have suggested Britain is returning to the 1970s – a decade when there were three-day weeks to deal with miners and railway workers striking, and a winter of discontent caused by pay row walkouts – due to the number of industrial disputes flaring up.
Railway workers crippled the train network three times in a week earlier this month over pay wrangling, while barristers have walked out of courts in protest at their pay.
Postal workers could become the latest to agree to join what is being dubbed the “summer of discontent” and the largest industrial action seen in a generation.
Are postal workers going on strike?
Postal workers started voting on Tuesday (June 28) on whether to strike later this summer.
Around 115,000 members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have received ballot papers and will decide in the coming weeks if they want to mount a campaign of industrial action.
According to reports, the result of the voting should be in by July 19.
It is not yet known how long any Royal Mail workers’ strike could last for if a majority vote to join a picket line.
Any walkout is likely to cause severe disruption to letter and package deliveries.
Why are Royal Mail workers being balloted for a strike?
The dispute is over pay.
The CWU is demanding that the Royal Mail Group negotiate with them to secure a “straight, no-strings” pay increase for employees.
The union said management intends to impose a 2% pay rise which will be a “dramatic real-terms wage cut” because of soaring inflation.
Inflation, which records how fast items are increasing in price, has risen to 9.1 per cent – its highest in 40 years.
The situation is likely to worsen, with the Bank of England warning that inflation could stand at 11% before the year is out.
The union is also keen to point out that their members were part of the key worker cohort who kept going into work to make deliveries during the Covid-19 pandemic when many other sectors shifted to home working.
What is the union saying?
The CWU say posties are having to rely on food banks to feed their families while Royal Mail chiefs are pocketing more than £1million a year once bonuses are factored in.
Dave Ward, the union’s general secretary, told Sky News: “In Royal Mail, the financial director apparently hit all their targets and got £1.5 million and the CEO’s just received a bonus of £140,000.
“People are saying, enough is enough.”
The union said such treatment of workers was “unjust”.
A spokesman said: “Britain’s postal workers are being forced into accepting a massive pay cut by the same people they have generated incredible profits for.
“We have no doubt that workers will defy this despicable treatment, stand up for themselves and vote to begin the biggest strike of this summer.”
What does the Royal Mail say?
The Royal Mail disputes that there is grounds for industrial action – hence, the current wrangle and threat of a strike.
“We offered a deal worth up to 5.5% for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years, which was rejected by the CWU,” said a spokesman.
The company, which was fully privatised by David Cameron ’s Conservative government in 2015 after having been publicly owned for centuries, said it is open to holding further negotiations to prevent strike action, saying it wants to “secure jobs for the future and retain our place as the industry leader on pay and terms and conditions”.