More than 115,000 Royal Mail workers have overwhelmingly voted for industrial action, marking the biggest strike of Britain’s “summer of discontent”.
Some 97.6pc of workers voted to walk out in a row over pay and working conditions. Turnout for the ballot was 77pc.
Union barons were accused of refusing to enter into talks to avoid strikes by Royal Mail. A spokesman for the company said: “Despite nearly three months of talks, the CWU has not engaged in any meaningful discussion on the changes we need to make to adapt.”
But Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union (CWU), said: “This stunning result is a testament to the phenomenal efforts made by CWU members across the country.
“It is also a vote of no confidence in Royal Mail’s chief executive and board, who should seriously consider their futures in our industry.
“The CWU’s message to Royal Mail’s leadership is loud and clear – not a single postal worker in this country will budge until you get serious and give them a dignified, proper pay rise.”
Over the weekend, Royal Mail chief executive Simon Thompson said that the company was in the middle of an “emergency” and had no option but to modernise working practices. Unions fear that will mean job cuts.
The majority of Royal Mail’s 140,000-strong workforce can now walk out at just two weeks’ notice, bringing the UK’s postal service to a near-standstill. The strike action would eclipse the walk out by 50,000 rail and Tube workers last month.
The former FTSE 250 company has offered staff a pay rise of up to 5.5pc. But only 2pc of this is fixed, with the balance dependent on sweeping reforms to working practices.
CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said: “[The vote] shows that our members know full well what they are worth, and that they are willing to fight for the no strings, real-terms pay rise they’re entitled to.”
A spokesman for Royal Mail responded: “We offered a deal worth up to 5.5pc for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years, which the CWU rejected. We can only fund this offer by making the changes that will pay for it and ensure Royal Mail can grow and remain competitive in a fast-moving industry.
“Ensuring we can change, at pace, is the route to protecting well-paid, permanent, jobs long term and retain our place as the industry leader on pay and terms and conditions. That is in the interest of Royal Mail and all its employees.
“In the event of industrial action, we have contingency plans to minimise customer disruption and will work to keep people, businesses and the country connected.”