Strike ballot would be ‘premature’

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A WIGAN postal strike against privatisation may soon be a step closer with confirmation of new moves towards a union ballot.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) will debate holding an autumn strike ballot across Royal Mail (excluding at its two-day special policy forum in London this week.

Branch secretary Paul Fenney said that the Hallgate sorting office staff were determined to keep the service in public hands.

But Royal Mail believes any strike action, or even threat of a walk out or work to rule, is “harmful” in the current “very competitive market” where post customers can “move their business away very quickly.”

Bosses said that it proposed a new three-year agreement to the CWU to deliver its “agenda for growth and industrial stability” but this had been rejected by the union.

While talks remain on-going, the company attacked the union’s move as “premature”.

A spokesman said: “Royal Mail is committed to seeking an agreement with the union on the way forward that equips the business for the future and is fair to our employees and continues to negotiate with the CWU on pay and other matters.”

She pointed out that earlier this month, it proposed a legally-binding three-year agreement that included an 8.6 per cent increase in base pay over the next three years, but this was rejected by staff.

While the Royal Mail Pension Plan would be kept open for existing members, subject to certain conditions.

It currently has approximately £2bn assets left at the time of the transfer to Government.

And some of these could be used as part of the company’s proposal to keep the plan open at least until the conclusion of the next periodic review in five years.

While Royal Mail will also continue paying in £400m per year into the scheme, which was a “significant financial commitment”.

Wigan CWU branch secretary Paul Fenney said: “The members are fully behind the policy in which the union are taking.

“We are obviously trying to save our jobs and protect our terms and conditions, but most importantly we want to protect the service to all of the British public no matter were they live.”

He revealed that if the strike ballot motion was approved, the CWU will then set out a timetable to hold a ballot of its 115,000 members across Royal Mail Group (excluding Parcelforce and the Post Office).

The 500 union representatives at the forum will debate a range of issues, including securing job protections in Royal Mail, alternative business models to privatisation, changes to pensions and workplace pressure.

Mr Fenney said: “The postal service is facing unprecedented change and threats.

“The union will always embrace innovation and change, but only on terms which maintain decent jobs and protect quality services.

“This policy forum is all about anticipating what may lie around the corner and how CWU can react to protect the interests of our members and customers they serve in the increasingly changing world of postal services.”

Mr Fenney said that the union was determined to secure the best possible protections for postal staff members’ jobs.

And he said that it would “stop at nothing” to ensure that the future of the staff and that of the boroughs postal services were protected.

Communication Workers Union deputy general secretary Dave Ward said that patience among staff was “wearing thin”.

He said: “Unless we can secure robust protections for jobs, pay and terms and conditions we are asking our reps to endorse a policy of holding a national industrial action ballot no later than September.”