Last minute Christmas deliveries may be hard to come by this year as Royal Mail workers announce six new strikes next month, including on Christmas Eve.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) had earlier accused Royal Mail Group chief executive Simon Thompson and the board of causing financial issues for the company with “dramatic errors of judgement” – although the Royal Mail has pointed to the strikes themselves as the reason for falling profits.
The delivery company even asked the government to let it stop delivering letters on Saturdays, arguing that it was no longer financially sustainable to do so.
Royal Mail workers are set to walk out on December 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24.
The CWU already had strike dates set for November 24, 25, 30, and December 1 prior to today’s announcement.
The union said some progress had been made in recent negotiations, but accused Royal Mail management of failing to put any commitments into writing.
A CWU spokesperson said: “The CWU want a negotiated settlement with Royal Mail Group and will continue to engage the company to that end. But those in charge of Royal Mail need to wake up and realise we won’t allow them to destroy the livelihoods of postal workers.”
The CWU’s general secretary, Dave Ward, had earlier accused Royal Mail bosses of “gross mismanagement”, claiming “no business making record profits of £758 million in May this year should be losing over £1 million a day in a matter of weeks”.
He added: “The current senior leadership of Royal Mail have been treating employees, union representatives or future investors with a lack of integrity and transparency.”
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Our preference is for an agreement with the CWU but the change we need is not optional.
“They should be focused on a resolution to this dispute for their members and the long-term health of the business, rather than damaging strike action.”
Royal Mail reported a £219million loss in the six months to September – compared with a £235million profit in the same period a year prior.
The company estimated a further five days of action during October had resulted in additional losses of £30m.
It warned it may need to cut as many as 10,000 jobs by next August amid plummeting revenues.
The CWU’s Mr Ward insisted the proposed job cuts were being suggested only due to “dramatic errors of judgement” by executives.
Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distributions Services, said delivery had become an increasingly less economical business due to the decline in popularity of letters.
As a result, the company stated it had approached the government in the hopes of moving to a five-day letter delivery schedule, removing Saturday, to “ensure future sustainability”.
The government must allow a change to Royal Mail’s universal service obligations for it to do so.
Letter deliveries, which peaked at 20bn annually around 2004, have fallen to 8bn, with volumes continuing to decline at about 8 percent annually.
In 2020, Ofcom, which regulates the postal service, said a reduction to five-day letter delivery would meet 97 percent of the needs of households and small and medium-sized businesses.
It added that Royal Mail could save between £125 million and £225 million annually from cutting back letter deliveries, and said that its research showed that consumers would be “largely indifferent” to the loss of Saturday deliveries.
However, it could prove very impactful for the already-struggling magazine publishing, with many sending out their editions on Saturdays.