The Communications Workers Union (CWU) is to ballot more than 100,000 of its members working for Royal Mail over industrial action.
Officials said the vote reflected frustration over the failure to resolve a series of disagreements, including on pension reform, and the company’s general direction since its controversial privatisation almost three years ago.
It announced the ballot 10 days before Royal Mail is due to be relegated from the top-flight FTSE 100 share index following an erosion in its market value – a degradation some market analysts partly-blamed on the risk of strikes.
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The CWU’s deputy general secretary, Terry Pullinger, said: “Talks have been taking place since April 2016, but the sense of shared purpose has drifted as privatisation has evolved.
“Quite frankly, three years or more into privatisation, we are seeing its promises shattered as the company has deserted the mutual interest approach to one of minimising cost and maximising shareholder return.
“This has led to actual and intended attacks on our members’ pensions, terms and conditions and ways of working.
“The conventional wisdom of more insecure employment models, inadequate DC (Defined Contribution) pension arrangements and gig economy labour practices are influencing the company’s strategic thinking, which is in direct conflict to the agreements we have in place.
“Our dispute is not only about protecting our members but also protecting a great public service and national institution, the Royal Mail Group, which should never have been privatised.”
The company responded: “We believe there are no grounds for industrial action.
“We remain committed to reaching a negotiated agreement with the CWU on pay and pensions, and other issues we have been discussing.
“A ballot does not necessarily mean there will be industrial action.”
The company said its new proposals to resolve the pension row would give staff the best deal in the delivery industry – insisting it had “moved a long way” from the original plan.
Both sides said they were willing to engage in further talks in the hope of averting any disruption.