Black Friday threat as Royal Mail workers begin ‘catastrophic’ 48-hour strike | Business news

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Royal Mail workers are beginning a 48-hour strike which the retail sector warns could ruin the Black Friday discount shopping season.

The strike action is being launched nationwide by 115,000 employees who are represented by the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

It is the latest stoppage in a long-running and increasingly bitter dispute over pay and the company’s modernization plans.

CWU Rejected Royal Mails”best and final“offers on Wednesday.

The redundancies are deliberately timed to coincide with the key pre-Christmas shopping season – a crucial revenue generator for Royal Mail – as strikes also hit November 30 and December 1, affecting Cyber ​​Monday deliveries.

More strikes are planned for 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24 December.

Retail intelligence firm Springboard has predicted a busy few days ahead, with cash-strapped shoppers looking set to grab some bargains amid cost of living crisis.

It predicted that visits to retail outlets on Black Friday will be 12.8% higher than on Black Friday 2021.

The fear of disrupted deliveries may force more bargain hunters into stores rather than online stores.

The eBay marketplace said a survey of its small business members found half saw the impact of the Royal Mail dropout as “catastrophic” for demand.

An eBay survey found that 89% of sellers expected a negative impact on sales

eBay’s UK general manager, Murray Lambell, warned: “The UK boasts one of the world’s most sophisticated e-commerce economies, with small businesses thriving by scaling up their retail business online.

“But industrial action risks wreaking havoc at the worst time for businesses and families.

“Astronomical energy prices, rising interest rates and the pushback from political turmoil have made it incredibly challenging for small businesses to operate right now.

“Adding industrial action, which is causing widespread disruption to supplies and sales, at the most important time of the year for trade, risks being the nail in the coffin for many small businesses.”

Michelle Ovens, founder of Small Business Britain, said: “Small businesses are under incredible pressure right now, with every area of ​​business under pressure and liquidity a huge issue.

“The widespread disruption caused by postal strikes will jeopardize a core sales channel for many small businesses during the critical peak period when every sale counts.

“We must do everything we can to support these businesses to recover and grow, and minimize obstacles where possible, not subject them to further duress.”

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Speaking about the bigger picture, Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers will work closely with their delivery providers on contingency plans to ensure customers can get the goods they need, particularly on Black Friday and leading up to Christmas, which is so important for consumers and retailers in this very difficult year.”

The CWU claims that Royal Mail’s proposal means it is fighting for the very survival of the company as we know it.

It claims the terms on offer would make Royal Mail a “gig-economy parcel courier, dependent on casual labour”.

Royal Mail says it must modernize to survive.

It has sought to waive its Saturday letter delivery requirement and wants to be able to deliver more profitable parcels seven days a week.

It says the strikes have cost it £100m to date.

Royal Mail’s parent company IDS says that without a deal it could spin off the UK operation from IDS and has threatened thousands of job losses on top of the 6,000 already out for consultation.

The union this week carried out a vote of no confidence in Royal Mail chief executive Simon Thompson.

He said of the company’s offer on Wednesday: “Talks have been going on for seven months and we have made several improvements and two pay offers which would now see a pay rise of up to 9% over 18 months along with a host of other improvements. This is our best and final offer.

“Negotiations involve give and take, but it seems the CWU’s approach is to just take. We want to reach an agreement, but time is running out for the CWU to change its position and avoid further damaging strike action tomorrow. “

CWU general secretary Dave Ward responded: “We are disappointed that, rather than reaching a compromise to avoid major disruption, Royal Mail has 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 profits for bosses and shareholders – take such a devastating blow to their livelihoods.

“We urge all members of the public to stand with their postie and support them like never before.”

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