Christmas post faces new strike as secret letter reveals union's latest threat

Millions of families face postal chaos this Christmas after unions threatened fresh strikes.

The move would cause maximum disruption at the busiest time of the year as Royal Mail delivers cards and presents. A letter sent to members of the Communication Workers Union this week, and seen by the Daily Mail, warns of fresh walkouts.

If management shows no sign of moving to meet their demands, union leaders say they 'will have no alternative other than to return to strike action before Christmas'. 

Read the letter in full below

Royal Mail postman

'No alternative': A leaked letter has revealed Royal Mail staff could go on strike this Christmas (file picture)

The move is a U-turn on a pledge by the union when it agreed a truce with Royal Mail earlier this month.

At the time, the CWU promised: 'The interim agreement ensures postal workers will work normally during the Christmas period.'

But the new letter, signed by general secretary Billy Hayes and his deputy Dave Ward, says postal workers will take to the picket lines again if Royal Mail does not begin to make concessions.

A strike would be a disaster for the company and a devastating blow for customers up and down the country. Presents and cards will be trapped – and possibly lost for ever – in a mountain of undelivered mail.

Around 120million letters and parcels are sent every day during the Christmas rush, compared to a 'normal' volume of around 75million.

During the strikes earlier this year, the backlog of mail reached 30million. At Christmas the figure would be much higher.

The biggest losers will be people who do their shopping online with firms who use Royal Mail.

The union letter says there will be fresh action unless there is 'sufficient evidence of a change in management's attitude, local agreements being reached and significant progress towards a full and final agreement'.

One long-standing Royal Mail worker said last night he had been 'disgusted' by the CWU letter and had cancelled his membership.

He said: 'A lot of my colleagues have done the same as me and stopped their subscriptions. The company has to modernise. You cannot fight progress.'

CWU letter
CWU letter part two

A spokesman for Royal Mail said the state-owned company remains 'absolutely committed' to talks with the union. He quoted comments made by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, who chaired the negotiations which led to the interim peace deal.

Mr Barber said at the time: 'The agreement provides for a period of calm, free of industrial action, to enable negotiations to be held over the next couple of months to secure the longer-term agreements necessary on all aspects of modernisation of Royal Mail.

'The delivery of the terms of this agreement means that Royal Mail services will be free of any disruption up to and through the Christmas period'.

Rolling localised strikes began in the summer, culminating in a series of national walkouts in October.

Further strikes were planned for this month but called off when the apparent promise not to disrupt Christmas deliveries was made. If the CWU sought to maximise the damage of any new strike, it would target the final run-up to Christmas.

Key dates are December 15, the last day for posting standard parcels to arrive in time, December 18 for second-class mail and December 21 for first-class mail.

Further strike action would be legal because the membership ballot which backed industrial action is still in effect, although the union would need to give seven days' notice of a walkout.

A spokesman for the CWU said last night: 'We cannot rule out strike action because the ballot is still live, but our focus is on renegotiating an agreement'.

An independent third party – Roger Poole, former chairman of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission – has been appointed to help the two sides reach a final agreement.

The disagreement centres on plans to modernise Royal Mail and their impact on staff workloads, pay and job security. Royal Mail is far less efficient than its competition and struggling to cope with a £7billion pension black hole and the loss of customers to rivals.

The strikes earlier this year have already driven many businesses to abandon it for a more reliable alternative. Experts say further strike action would be suicidal for postal staff as the company cannot afford to lose any more lucrative contracts or goodwill from its customers.

Figures published yesterday revealed the dramatic impact of the earlier strikes. Between June and September, just 90.7 per cent of first-class post arrived the next working day, well below the company's target of 93 per cent.

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