The most bitter UK industrial dispute of the last year is on the verge of being settled as the union representing 112,000 frontline Royal Mail workers has recommended they accept the terms of a peace deal.
The company and Communication Workers Union (CWU) have been at each others’ throats for more than 11 months but agreed the outline of an agreement last weekend pending the approval of the union’s national executive.
The CWU said on Friday that it would recommend the membership support the plan in a forthcoming vote – with both sides claiming victories in certain areas.
The dispute covers three broad areas: pay, jobs and working conditions.
Loss-making Royal Mail had previously warned that without an agreement, staff would have been risking their jobs.
The agreement includes later starting times for deliveries which, Royal Mail said, would respond to greater demand for more next-day parcels, reduce its impact on the environment through the removal of 18 flights a day, improve quality of service and create greater capacity to grow.
New seasonal working patterns and regular Sunday working were also agreed. Royal Mail said that would allow it to grow its seven-day parcels business and adapt to changing customer demands.
On pay, the staff will get a 10% rise over three years – some of which has already been paid – and a one-off lump sum of £500.
The union had initially demanded an annual increase in line with the rate of inflation.
For its part, the CWU said it was delighted that, what it called, the “Uberisation” of Royal Mail was to be abandoned.
It was particularly unhappy over the introduction of owner-drivers into the Royal Mail for delivery purposes.
The CWU also hailed reductions in agency workers and the establishment of an independent inquiry for suspended or sacked workers.
The union has not staged one strike this year as the sides have grappled, publicly and bitterly, on the sidelines of the negotiations with the CWU calling for Royal Mail boss Simon Thompson to be sacked.
The company claimed that industrial action in 2022, including over Christmas, cost it £200m.
A union spokesperson said of the settlement: “This situation has been arrived at only because of the sheer determination of every postal worker in this country who stood up for themselves, their jobs and their industry.
“We intend to put this deal to our members’ vote as soon as possible.”
Royal Mail had argued that without reform being attached to the wider deal, it would have been unable to compete properly with rivals in the key parcels sphere.
It said: “This agreement is an important step forward in the turnaround of Royal Mail and, if approved by the CWU membership, represents a good outcome for customers, employees and shareholders.
“The agreement provides a platform for the next phase of stabilising the business whilst continuing to drive efficiency and change.
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“The operational changes in the agreement are designed to improve competitiveness, particularly in next-day parcels, reduce cost and environmental impact and improve quality of service for our customers.”
The agreement will allow a single parcel network between Royal Mail and Parcelforce to be created, eradicating current duplication.
It will see both companies carrying the same format of parcels and visiting the same customers on the same day.
There is a commitment to no compulsory redundancies for the life of the agreement and a joint review in April 2025 to consider whether it can be extended.