The UK’s largest postal union is moving ahead with plans to bring the entire Downstream Access mail system to a halt.
The Communication Workers Union gained the backing of its members today at its annual conference in Bournemouth for a motion to hold a ballot of 120,000 Royal Mail workers from 22nd May.
If the vote supports industrial action, the union could lead a boycott of up to 44% of the UK’s letter mail.
All mail collected and processed by private sector companies before being entered into the Royal Mail network for final delivery would be affected by such a blockade.
It could see up to 26m items going undelivered each day, the union said, including important bills and statements.
The CWU wants the industrial action to put pressure on UK authorities to do more to protect Royal Mail from the impact of “unfair” private sector competition in the postal sector.
It says companies like TNT Post and UK Mail are “cherry-picking” the most profitable parts of the UK postal market, leaving Royal Mail to pay for the less profitable parts.
The union is also opposing the privatisation of Royal Mail itself, which could happen in some form from later this year, suggesting both issues will impact on jobs.
The ballot of CWU members is expected to close on 18th June, with the results being declared the following day.
“Profit not people”
Dave Ward, the CWU deputy general secretary, said today that the union was balloting its members to protect the universal service.
“Private companies work for profit, not for people,” he said. “Marketisation and privatisation are two sides of same coin. The mail boycott is part of our overall strategy to protect postal services. Yes, the USO is enshrined in law, but it can’t survive with the cherry-picking which is currently allowed. The economic reality will kick the chair away from the legislative position and we cannot allow that to happen.”
Much of the CWU’s anger is leveled at TNT Post UK’s ambitions to expand its current end-to-end mail delivery service in West London.
Ward said that TNT Post, which is part of Dutch postal service PostNL, will be looking to switch its current Downstream Access business to a full end-to-end service once it has the street delivery infrastructure in place, taking mail away from Royal Mail. He suggested the universal service would “collapse” as a result, with rural areas faring the worst.
The CWU official also said that privatisation had “failed services for decades”.
Ward said: “We can influence government policy, we can stop the sale of Royal Mail, we will protect the postal service for customers, and we will protect our members’ jobs.”