Royal Mail staff are launching a 48-hour strike which the retail industry fears could disrupt the lucrative Black Friday deals season.

The 115,000 employees represented by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) are set to walk out across the country as a row over pay continues.

It is the latest in a long-running and increasingly heated disagreement over wages and the company’s plans for modernisation.

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The union turned down Royal Mail’s “best and final” offer on Wednesday, November 23.

The walkouts have been organised to coincide with the peak pre-Christmas shopping period.

The period is a critical source of earnings for Royal Mail, as strikes will also occur on November 30 and December 1, hampering Cyber Monday deliveries.

More strike actions are slated for December 9, 11, 14, 15, 23, and 24.

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Concerns about disrupted deliveries may drive more deal-seekers to physical stores instead of online shops.

In an eBay survey of small business members, 50 percent believe the Royal Mail strike will be “disastrous” for demand.

The CWU claims Royal Mail’s plans mean it is battling for the company’s existence.

It alleges that the proposed terms will transform Royal Mail into a “gig economy-style parcel courier reliant on casual labour.”

However, Royal Mail says it must modernise in order to stay afloat.

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It has asked to be exempted from the task to deliver post on Saturdays in order to send more profitable packages seven days a week.

It estimates that the strikes have cost it £100 million so far.

Without a deal, Royal Mail’s parent IDS, says it may separate the UK business from IDS, threatening thousands of job cuts on top of the 6,000 now out for consultation.

This week, the union held a vote of no confidence in Royal Mail CEO Simon Thompson.

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He said: “Talks have lasted for seven months and we have made numerous improvements and two pay offers.

“It would now see up to a 9 percent pay increase over 18 months alongside a host of other enhancements. 

“This is our best and final offer.

“Negotiations involve give and take, but it appears that the CWU’s approach is to just take. 

“We want to reach a deal, but time is running out for the CWU to change their position and avoid further damaging strike action tomorrow.”

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CWU general secretary Dave Ward responded: “We are disappointed that instead of reaching a compromise to avoid major disruption, Royal Mail have chosen to pursue such an aggressive strategy.

“We will not accept that 115,000 Royal Mail workers – the people who kept us connected during the pandemic, and made millions in profit for bosses and shareholders – take such a devastating blow to their livelihoods.

“We urge every member of the public to stand with their postie, and back them like never before.”

Source: Sky News

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