Trade Unions

Blame Who You Want: The Royal Mail is Dying

I don’t really understand why Royal Mail employees are on strike so frequently these days. According to the Guardian, it is because “[Communication Workers Union] members are angry about the Royal Mail’s handling of its modernisation programme “. It may well be that the Royal Mail has handled its modernisation programme very badly, and the CWU is wholly justified on going on strike. Feel free to argue the toss, below.

None of that matters to the Royal Mail customers, of course.

Which is why today, Royal Mail and its employees are faced with the terrible prospect of loss of custom:

Royal Mail has lost a crucial contract with its second largest customer, the online retailer Amazon, as a wave of strikes threaten parcel deliveries in the busy pre-Christmas sales period.

The news comes on the eve of a national strike announcement by the Communication Workers Union that is likely to bring the simmering industrial dispute to the boil and further disrupt deliveries across the country.

Now the Guardian has learned that has cancelled its long-term contract to use the Royal Mail for parcels over 500 grams and will use a rival service, Home Delivery Network (HDN), which also delivers for Tesco and Argos.

HDN declined to comment directly, citing commercial confidentiality, but the Amazon contract is thought to be worth at least £25m and is one of the first times a major sender of medium-sized parcels has chosen to defect from the Royal Mail in this way.

It is not as if Royal Mail and the CWU had no warning that this loss of business was coming:

Two years ago Royal Mail lost a smaller Amazon contract worth £8m to deliver second class parcels during the last national strike, but fought hard to win the business back, claiming improved industrial relations. Losing the new, bigger contract will exacerbate the operator’s financial woes, which lay behind its need to cut staff, but more worryingly sends a dangerous signal to other suppliers about Amazon’s faith in the network during the crisis.

And here is what the CWU has to say:

Last night the CWU said it regretted disruption caused by the strikes, but added: “We are very concerned that if we don’t get this right now, there will be a lot more disruption to customer services in future.”

Can you see why the Royal Mail’s customers might not be wholly reassured by such a statement?

This is how the CWU plans to gear its programme of strikes:

The CWU is not expected to give details of its strike plans, but they are likely to involve rolling action, targeting different parts of the chain on different days, causing maximum disruption without too much loss of pay.

Of course, if other customers follow Amazon’s suit, it will be “loss of jobs” rather the merely “loss of pay” which will await the postal workers.

Hugely depressing.