'No grounds' for strike action says Royal Mail Northern Ireland chief

The head of Royal Mail in Northern Ireland has spoken out against proposed industrial action, stating staff would be shooting themselves in the foot
Gareth McKeown

THE head of Royal Mail in Northern Ireland has said there are "no grounds" for proposed strike action, claiming workers would be 'shooting themselves in the foot'.

In a letter to the Irish News Paul Sweeney has spoken out against the potential action from the Communications Workers Union (CWU). In the correspondence he writes that Royal Mail is a "very good employer" and states staff have the best pay and terms and conditions in the industry.

Earlier this month the CWU announced plans to ballot more than 100,000 of its members working for Royal Mail in the UK over industrial action. The union has opposed Royal Mail's move to replace its defined benefit pension scheme, claiming it would result in members losing up to a third of their future pensions on average. Concerns have also been raised over the firm's direction since privatisation.

Mr Sweeney has re-iterated the company's position that there are "just no grounds for a strike".

"Our postmen and women have the best pay – and the best terms and conditions – in our industry. They do an amazing job in all weathers – rain or shine. Average pay is 45 to 50 per cent above the National Living Wage. None of that is changing," he said.

"Previous strikes at Royal Mail meant we let our customers down. Some of our major rivals today were actually established because of those strikes. There really is no point shooting ourselves in the foot."

The Royal Mail general manager for Northern Ireland believes the company has made a "very good offer" to workers and challenged the rationale behind strike action.

"On pay, we have made a very good offer. That follows a 10.8 per cent pay rise in the four years since privatisation. That compares favourably with the 6.4 per cent UK national average earnings increase over the same period.

"On pensions, we know how important pension benefits are to colleagues. Our proposal would be by far the best pension scheme in the industry – and one that benchmarks well to other large employers."

"Royal Mail is a very good employer. We provide great terms and conditions. We are working hard to keep improving our services to customers in a very competitive industry. There is no need to strike. We want to work with our postmen and women, our great ambassadors, to keep being the best delivery company in the UK," Mr Sweeney added.

Speaking earlier this month CWU's deputy general secretary, Terry Pullinger said promises have been "shattered" by Royal Mail, and claims the company has become primarily concerned with minimising costs and maximising shareholder return.

"Our dispute is not only about protecting our members but also protecting a great public service and national institution, the Royal Mail Group, which should never have been privatised," Mr Pulliger said.

:: The full letter from Paul Sweeney is published on page 25 in today's Irish News

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