Royal Mail and unions reach an agreement to end two-year dispute

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Royal Mail and unions reach an agreement to end two-year dispute over pay and conditions

Royal Mail has struck a ‘landmark’ deal with unions that ends a two-year dispute over pay and conditions.

The agreement paves the way for the postal service to focus on parcel deliveries and to push ahead with technology improvements.

In exchange, posties will receive a 3.7 per cent pay rise over two years and work one hour fewer per week.

Breakthrough: Royal Mail has struck a 'landmark' deal with unions that paves the way for the postal service to focus on parcel deliveries and to push ahead with technology improvements

Breakthrough: Royal Mail has struck a ‘landmark’ deal with unions that paves the way for the postal service to focus on parcel deliveries and to push ahead with technology improvements

The deal is a triumph for executive chairman Keith Williams, who was parachuted in after Rico Back left in May. 

As boss of British Airways he settled a dispute with pilots and yesterday said the agreement with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) provided a ‘window of opportunity’ to modernise.

However, he warned the ‘proof will be in the pudding’, adding: ‘We have been far too slow to adapt in the past and now need to deliver change much more quickly.’

Royal Mail shares rose by 1.1 per cent or 3.4p to 326.7p, close to the listing price of 330p in 2013. The shares peaked above 630p in 2018 but sank below 125p this year.

The explosion in internet shopping during the pandemic has sent parcel volumes soaring but hammered letters, causing a £133million half-year loss. 

Royal Mail needs to rapidly expand parcel services to replace tumbling letter revenues, but efforts to introduce more automation have met fierce resistance from the CWU over fears of job losses.

An acrimonious row between the two culminated in a High Court battle over threatened strikes last Christmas, and hampered Royal Mail’s performance, leading to huge delays in technology upgrades and the introduction of new parcel services.

Royal Mail has long wanted to automate more sorting of parcels – as much is still done by hand – and roll out technology to track packages and letters more closely.

But on top of demands that staff use digital systems to track their working hours, instead of handwritten records, it prompted accusations from the CWU of ‘big brother’- style monitoring.

The union has now accepted change in exchange for better pay and shorter hours, and there will be no compulsory redundancies.

Dave Ward, CWU general secretary, said: ‘This is a landmark agreement that means that even in these incredibly difficult times it is entirely possible to plan a future that can still benefit workers, customers and the company.

‘It has been made possible because of the fantastic efforts of postal workers, who as key workers have kept the country connected and met customer and social needs throughout the pandemic.’

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