The Royal Mail is facing the threat of the first national strike since it was privatised after workers voted in favour of industrial action in a bitter dispute over pensions, pay and jobs.
Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) backed walkouts by 89 per cent on a turnout of 73 per cent of the 110,000 balloted. It passed the threshold in the government’s controversial Trade Union Act, under which ballots need a 50 per cent turnout for industrial action to go ahead.
The CWU believes it is a “watershed” moment for unions as well as the Royal Mail, which it has accused of following a “relentless” programme of cost-cutting to maximise short-term profits and shareholder returns.
The union accused the company of “unilaterally” closing its defined benefit, or final salary, pension scheme, with new entrants going into an “inferior” scheme which will leave them in “pensioner poverty”.
The union is also in dispute over pay and issues such as delivery office closure.
A spokeswoman from the Royal Mail said it was “very disappointed” with the result of the CWU ballot.
She added: “We note that with a 74 per cent turnout – and taking into account frontline employees who are not union members – 57 per cent have backed a strike.
“A ballot result for industrial action does not necessarily mean there will be industrial action.
“Royal Mail is committed to further talks as a matter of urgency, to reach agreement with the CWU. There are no grounds for industrial action.
“In 2013, Royal Mail and the CWU committed to the Agenda for Growth (AFG) – a legally binding agreement. Royal Mail has brought to the CWU’s attention the contractual dispute resolution procedures included in the AFG, which both sides are required to follow once instigated.”
The strike action means the current offer from Royal Mail will be taken off the table.