Royal Mail’s property and facilities workers get set for strike ballot


‘They’re paying us last year’s pay rates, but we’re paying out this year’s prices!’ says workplace rep at national briefing on the RMP&FS pay dispute…

With this short sentence, Chris English CWU Central Area rep for P&FS engineers, explained perfectly the sheer unfairness of the current situation facing not only his members, but also the vast majority of our union’s membership and workers across the UK at this time.

Latest figures show inflation running at 11.7 per cent (RPI), driven by sharp hikes in fuel and food prices. Although there are no restrictions on companies raising their customer prices, workers’ claims for pay rises in line with inflation are being refused, sparking a wave of disputes, ballots and strikes involving CWU members as well as RMT rail workers, British Airways airport staff and various other key sectors of the economy.

Our own members working for the Post Office have already been on strike over pay, with further walkouts planned for next week while BT and Openreach members voted last week for action and ballots are in progress in Royal Mail and Parcelforce.

The Royal Mail ballot does not include approximately 1,400 engineers, admin workers and cleaners who clean, repair, maintain and keep operational the company’s many buildings around the country, because pay, terms and conditions for the workers in this division of the company – Royal Mail Property & Facilities Solutions (RMP&FS) – are negotiated separately.

As previously reported on CWU News P&FS management made a similar 2 per cent pay offer to engineers – which was rejected by the union – and offered no pay rise to the vast majority of the company’s approximately 1,000 cleaners. Having formally registered the union’s opposition to the company’s position and receiving the Postal Executive’s in-principle authorisation for a strike ballot, CWU national officers Mark Baulch and Carl Maden called a national briefing at the end of last week to update branches and representatives, answer their questions and hear views and feedback from around the country.

As Outdoor Secretary, Mark represents P&FS cleaners and, in his presentation, he expressed his and the union’s anger at the treatment of these workers who had, he pointed out: “Kept Royal Mail buildings open during the pandemic while the company made record profits.”

After going through the details of the union’s claim and the plans to move towards an industrial action ballot, Mark urged everyone to prepare for the upcoming campaign, saying: “The company owes our members a decent pay rise, both to recognise the fantastic role they played during the pandemic and also to keep up with the cost of living – let’s get a massive YES vote and get our members the pay rise and key improvements to their pensions that they fully deserve.”

Carl Maden, whose national officer responsibilities include P&FS engineers and admin, gave more details of the ballot plans, explained that the specific timetable is currently being discussed with the senior deputy general secretary Tony Kearns and told the meeting that this would be announced as soon as possible.

Carl focused on the issues around engineers’ and admin pay and also outlined various aspects of the CWU claim in other areas, such as members’ pensions and the ongoing push to bring more work in-house. Referring to the rising wave industrial unrest, Carl said: “We can’t all be wrong – look at all the trade unions either taking action or balloting at this time!”

In the discussion from the floor, branch and area representatives from other parts of Royal Mail Group pledged their solidarity and support for P&FS members and many of them echoed Mark’s point about the crucial role played by cleaners in particular in keeping company premises clean, hygienic and fit for use during the Covid crisis, as well as the key contribution made by P&FS engineers as well.

CWU national cleaners’ rep Eleanor Hipson said afterwards: “It’s been great to hear the support from the rest of the union here today, because the way our members are being treated is just not fair. The P&FS managers got a bonus and a pay rise, but the cleaners got offered nothing in these negotiations.”

Nikki Booth, Northern Area rep for cleaners, described the company’s refusal to offer a pay rise to cleaners as “a smack in the face” and added that it “shows what the company thinks after we got them through the pandemic,” while Western Area rep Cathy Chilcott said that the company was “going back on promises” and London and South East rep Chris Imms reported that members were “angry and also confused” at the current situation.

For the P&FS engineers, Chris English, as well as his memorable quote, also spoke of the need for a fair pay rise and a better deal, while National P&FS engineering rep Ged Garside and John Humphries, from London Postal Engineering Branch, also talked about the situation facing their members and of the need to ensure that the union’s message gets out to all of them.

Speaking to CWU News this morning, Mark Baulch said: “It was a very positive meeting and our P&FS reps were all really pleased at the support from branches and others. We’re more determined than ever to get a fair deal for cleaners,” while Carl Maden added: “Our engineers and admin members need and deserve a pay rise to keep up with inflation and we also want a pathway to harmonisation on pensions with the rest of Royal Mail Group.”

  • RMP&FS ballot timetable is expected to be announced later this week