Postal workers could block half of Britain's mail as dispute over monopoly on home delivery escalates

 

Postal workers could block the delivery of half the nation’s mail in an escalating dispute over the first challenge to the Royal Mail’s historic monopoly on home delivery, union leaders are warning tonight.

In response to private delivery workers tramping the streets for the first time, the Communication Workers’ Union announced it would ballot its 120,000 Royal Mail members in the New Year over whether they should stop handling all private mail.

If the boycott is approved, it would affect all of the £1.4bn a year worth of mail passing through Royal Mail – amounting to 44 per cent of all letters in the UK postal system, and three-quarters of all bulk mail.

The dispute – which echoes the nationwide strike by postal workers over pay three years ago - ignites a smouldering row over the future viability of the Royal Mail, which is due to be privatised next year.

Royal Mail is legally obliged to operate a universal, six-day-a-week delivery postal service across the UK, and rivals have traditionally handed the mail they have collected and sorted from large companies to the state-owned operator for the “final mile” delivery to homes.

However under a licence granted by the communications regulator Ofcom, TNT has been delivering mail directly to homes in the London postcodes of W1-16 and SW1 since April - the first time in 360 years that Royal Mail posties have faced a rival delivery service on the streets.

Since then the Dutch-owned company, which says it is providing businesses with a competitive end-to-end service, has been granted permission for trial deliveries to EC and WC addresses in the City of London.

The CWU today called for Ofcom to halt the experiment, saying that the expansion of the private sector would lead to a further decline in the Royal Mail’s finances and, ultimately, its members’ pay and conditions.

It warned in a statement: “CWU will hold a consultative ballot of its members in Royal Mail in the New Year with the intention of boycotting competitors' mail. This would mean that any mail sent via a company other than Royal Mail would not be delivered.

“If no progress is made by the regulator then the boycott will be put in place.”

Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, complained: "TNT is conducting end-to-end deliveries without having to meet any quality standards while paying people little more than minimum wage. That will lead to a race to the bottom on pay which will be bad news for the economy in general and postal workers in particular.”

A spokesman for Royal Mail expressed sympathy for the CWU’s opposition to the TNT experiment, saying: “We are concerned about the impact of unfettered direct delivery competition on Royal Mail. Currently, competitors are allowed to 'cherry-pick' higher density, more profitable routes in urban areas and ignore lower density rural areas where delivery is more costly.”

However, the spokesman expressed concern at the impact of industrial action, saying: “It is vital to all of us at Royal Mail, to Royal Mail as a business and most importantly to our customers, that the post is delivered.”

A spokesman for TNT said: “We disagree with the points the CWU has made. We plan to create 20,000 jobs over the next five years in the postal sector, which is good news for the British economy and good news for the UK postal sector.”

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks