Royal Mail workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of going on strike in a dispute over pensions, pay and jobs, the Communication Workers Union said.
About 110,000 members of the CWU have been voting on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action, which is the first national stoppage to hit the Royal Mail since it was privatised four years ago.
It will be the first major test of the Government’s controversial Trade Union Act, under which ballots need a 50 per cent turnout for industrial action to go ahead.
The CWU believes it will be a ‘watershed’ moment for unions as well as the postal giant itself, which it has accused of following a ‘relentless’ programme of cost-cutting to maximise short-term profits and shareholder returns.
The union accused the company of ‘unilaterally’ closing its defined benefit, or final salary, pension scheme, with new entrants going into an ‘inferior’ scheme which will leave them in ‘pensioner poverty’.
The union is also in dispute over pay and issues such as delivery office closures.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: ‘Postal workers are under relentless pressure to work faster, harder and cheaper.
‘This has nothing to do with driving growth and innovation, it’s all about the tired old thinking of privatisation and asset-stripping.
‘When hundreds of millions of pounds are being paid out every year to hedge funds, as Royal Mail plans to slash workers’ pension entitlements and deny them a pay rise, there is something fundamentally wrong with the business model.’
A Royal Mail spokesman disputed there were any grounds for industrial action.
They said: ‘There are no grounds for industrial action. There is a very good deal on the table.
‘Alongside Royal Mail’s proposal for the best pension scheme in the industry – and one that compares favourably to other large employers – we are making a very good offer on pay.
‘Under its proposals, Royal Mail would continue to provide the best pay and terms and conditions in the industry.
‘Many competitors pay around the national living wage. Royal Mail pays 45%-50% more than this.
‘We are not proposing to change our core terms and conditions or our commitment to a predominantly permanent workforce.
‘Industrial action – or the threat of it – undermines the trust of our customers. Industrial action makes it harder for Royal Mail to pay for industry-leading terms and conditions.
‘We remain committed to reaching a negotiated agreement with the CWU on pay and pensions.’