The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) has been in a protracted dispute with Royal Mail. It’s over pay and working conditions – but also about the direction the company is taking. CWU general secretary Dave Ward has called it the “gross mismanagement”. Now, it looks like he was right – as Royal Mail has just allowed notorious gig economy employer Evri to move into its business territory, just as it reported losses of £219m.
The CWU: an ongoing dispute
The ongoing dispute between CWU members and Royal Mail has seen various twists and turns. The company first proposed a paltry pay offer of 5.5% – but that was dependent on staff agreeing to worsening terms and conditions. The workers refused this – so Royal Mail said it would make 6,000 people redundant and strip 4,000 more jobs on top.
Then, it offered workers a 7% pay rise – still far below the rate of inflation. However, the CWU still wouldn’t budge. So, Royal Mail took a legal route, which briefly meant the CWU had to pull some strikes. This didn’t last long, and workers are now back to walk outs again.
The union will now continue strikes planned for Thursday 24, Friday 25, Wednesday 30 November, and Thursday 1 December. The CWU said in a press release that while it recognises that progress in recent negotiations has been made in some aspects, Royal Mail management failed to put any commitments into writing. Meanwhile, the chaos at the company continues.
Evri: an example of “gross mismanagement”?
Ward said in a press release:
No business making record profits of £758m in May this year should now be losing over £1m a day in a matter of weeks without gross mismanagement. The truth is that the current senior leadership of Royal Mail have been treating employees, union representatives or future investors with a lack of integrity and transparency. Dramatic errors of judgement have been made, like announcing 10,000 job losses to threatening striking workers, abandoning previous agreements and handing over £567m to shareholders while neglecting the pay of employees who generated that profit.
A perfect example of Royal Mail’s gross mismanagement has come to light. As the Daily Mail reported (please don’t click the link), former Royal Mail business the Post Office has done a deal with Evri. That’s the company formerly known as Hermes, which did a rebrand and name-change to try and clean-up its poor reputation. In March 2022, the Post Office ended an exclusive deal it had with Royal Mail, where only the latter would deliver parcels. Now, the Post Office has struck a deal with Evri. It will be trialling a self-service from the company in 50 branches. As the Daily Mail noted, this is the first time in 360 years that the Post Office has got anyone other than Royal Mail to deliver parcels.
Evri (when it was Hermes) was a notorious gig economy employer. Workers had to take it to court in 2018 to win proper employment rights – and even after this, still had to fight for further, basic protections. Its workers are still classed as “self-employed plus” – and only won pension and parental leave rights this year.
Royal Mail: “reckless”
Overall, the question remains: how has Royal Mail stood by while the Post Office has outsourced delivery services for the first time in 360 years?
Ward said in a press release:
Many things remain unexplained, like giving up Royal Mail’s household name in favour of ‘International Distributions Services’, refusing the union’s offer to escalate negotiations and ignoring the unrivalled network of Royal Mail Group to create new financial opportunities. We firmly believe these reckless decisions have been informed by power struggles in the boardroom, in the full knowledge of a potential future takeover bid – backed up by the government’s green-lighting of VESA to increase their shareholding.
Meanwhile, on Thursday 17 November, Royal Mail reported six-month losses of £219m. It blamed the strikes (naturally), and also a drop in the number of parcel deliveries. So, the company looks even more “reckless”, as Ward said, letting Evri start to scoop up even more of its parcel business via the Post Office.
“Couldn’t care less”
As Ward summed up:
Postal workers need a deal that works for them, the communities they love and the industry they loyally serve, not one that covers up for CEO and boardroom failures. The CWU – or this country – will never accept Royal Mail becoming another Uber-style gig economy courier. 32 million households and countless small businesses are relying on this dispute to be over for the Christmas period. The pattern of behaviour displayed by Royal Mail top brass suggests they couldn’t care less about resolving any of this.
The Post Office deal with Evri sums up bosses’ gross mismanagement at Royal Mail. The company is floundering while bosses make knee-jerk decisions – even considering begging the government to let it deliver letters just five days a week. Royal Mail has become a clusterfuck. It’s little wonder, then, that workers have had enough.
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