PAUL STAINTON: It’s not been long, has it? A couple of days since people have got their shares in the Royal Mail and maybe made some money already as well, and sold them on, two or three hundred pounds – well now today we hear there are plans for a national strike by postal workers. It’s expected to be announced by the Communication Workers Union later today. The union’s been balloting over 100,000 post men and women who work for the recently privatised company (who) are seeking an improved pay offer, guarantees from the firm over pensions and working practices. Yuan Potts is here from our Business Unit. Yuan, morning.
YUAN POTTS: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Oh dear. So those people who’ve got shares now in the Royal Mail, they’ll be slightly perturbed won’t they? The share price might be going down all of a sudden.
YUAN POTTS: Well I think if it was anything of a shock then there might be a risk of that. But I think this is .. you might call it a bit of a certainty. The Communication Workers Union say they’re hoping for an overwhelming “yes” vote. And even the company itself warned in its privatisation prospectus that there was a pretty big chance that this was going to happen. So at three o’clock this afternoon, we’re going to find out exactly how many postal workers, postmen and women voted “yes” to strike action. And it could be as soon as the 23rd October that we have a strike. They have to legally give seven days notice. And I don’t think it’s a co-incidence that the Christmas period is coming up, and the union will be hoping to hit the company where it hurts, in the Christmas delivery period. Now in terms of what it’s all about, it’s pay and conditions, the old chestnut. 8.6% over three years is the pay deal that the Royal Mail have offered. They point out this is about the same as inflation, and it’s more than a lot of other people have been getting in the public and private sectors. But the union says it’s unhappy with this/ It’s not enough. And it says it comes with strings attached, which it can’t agree to.
PAUL STAINTON: What effect will it have? Because we have post office staff on strike a little while ago, and there was barely any effect, was there? But this could be much bigger, couldn’t it?
YUAN POTTS: Yes it could be actually. This strike action will be in Royal Mail and Parcel Force, so it’s the newly privatised company that delivers the letters. Disruption, well it could be fairly severe. The BBC understands that the twenty four hour strike is going to be announced this afternoon. We don’t yet know which day it will be announced for. And if previous strike action .. you have to go back about four years for this, but if you look at previous strike actions, then they managed to spread those over several days, and they got the sorting staff to go one day, and the drivers to go another day. And this added to the disruption. So we could see a fair bit of disruption to postal deliveries. But as you say, post offices won’t be affected. They’re a separate company, still in Government hands. But actually they have their own strike action ongoing over closure of some town centre post offices, and over job losses in those.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. It’s a worrying picture, isn’t it? And hopefully it can be sorted out before it gets to a strike around Christmas when everyone wants to get their Christmas post and Christmas parcels off and under way.