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Royal Mail workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strikes in a dispute over pay.
A ballot of members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) showed huge support for industrial action in protest at a 2% pay offer.
A total of 97.6%, of those who voted, backed strikes, on a turnout of 77%. The union said it was an unprecedented result.
General secretary Dave Ward said there will now be a “small window” of opportunity for talks to avoid walkouts before strike dates are set.
He said postal workers received big support from the public for their efforts during the pandemic and would continue to receive backing for their pay campaign.
Mr Ward 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.
“Crucially, the vote can leave no doubt that postal workers are united, and that they are demanding the proper pay rise they deserve.
“While bosses rake in £758 million in profit and shareholders take £400 million, workers are expected to take a serious real-terms pay cut.
“Postal workers won’t accept their living standards being hammered by bosses who are typical of business leaders today – overpaid, underqualified, out of their depth.
“In our country right now, corporate failure gets rewarded over and over again.
“It’s pathetic that CEOs take home lottery win salaries then offer real-terms pay cuts to people who made them their profit.
“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.”
CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said of the vote: “It 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.
“This union never wanted to be in this position. Since the beginning of this dispute, we wanted discussions and negotiations with management.
“But this was rejected by management, who have left us with no choice but to fight their disgraceful imposition.
“This was a miscalculation on their part, and there were never going to be any question of our members accepting this assault on them.
“Our members deserve a pay rise that rewards their fantastic achievements in keeping the country connected during the pandemic, but also helps them keep up during this current economic crisis.
“We won’t be backing down until we get just that.”
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that CWU members have voted in favour of industrial action.
“We offered a deal worth up to 5.5% 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.
“Despite nearly three months of talks, the CWU have not engaged in any meaningful discussion on the changes we need to make to adapt. 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.”