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On Tuesday 5 July 2022, the trade union Unite announced that over 2,400 Royal Mail managers are set to strike throughout July 2022. The strikes - which are due to be held between July 20th and 22nd - are in response to Royal Mail’s proposed cuts to jobs and pay and are set to affect the postal service across Great Britain and Northern Ireland over the coming weeks.

In addition to the strikes, a spokesperson for Unite has said that Royal Mail managers will “work to rule” on 15-19 July, adhering strictly to their contract terms and therefore ensuring that they start and finish on time and take their rest days (Unite). Throughout these days, specific services such as next day delivery and tracked delivery will be delayed.

As Royal Mail recently announced plans to slash up to 700 jobs and cut the pay of its members by up to £7,000; they have been accused by trade union leaders of “putting profits ahead of their duties as a public service” (Unite).

Since the pandemic, Royal Mail have experienced an enormous £311 million surge (Unite) in profits thanks to the proliferation in online shopping during lockdown – but where is this cash being injected?

The leading postal service is failing to come to an agreement with employees over pay and job cuts, and critics continue to question not only their ability to support employees struggling with the rising cost-of-living, but also the fundamentals of running a smooth delivery and postal service. Following business last month in which it was suggested that Royal Mail was “running on empty and depending on thousands of unpaid hours provided by managers to hold the service together”; Unite have said that the “removal of hundreds more posts would make the six-day service, impossible to sustain”.

Responding to the claims, Royal Mail have said that there were “no grounds for industrial action” and that it did not recognise the £7,000 pay cut. They have emphasised their commitment to protecting the pay of all managers who have worked for the company for several years, and have highlighted that the majority of their workers have been offered either an increase in their earnings, or a voluntary redundancy package which contains up to two years of salary (Financial Times).

With the business dubbed as “already running on fumes” (Mike Eatwell, Unite National Officer); Unite is calling on Royal Mail to recognise the effect that such drastic job and pay cuts will have on both their employees, which are already struggling with the rising cost-of-living, and their service (Unite).

Is the rising inflation rate adding even more fuel to the fire?

In the autumn months of 2022, it is predicted that inflation will exceed 11%, placing hundreds of thousands of UK individuals at risk of losing their homes and facing financial disaster. With petrol prices reaching nearly two pounds per litre at most petrol pumps across the UK and the energy price cap increasing by 54% in April 2022 (UK Parliament), it’s unsurprising to see staff taking action against pay and job cuts.

A recent study conducted by GMB union found almost half of its workers have been forced to borrow money from banks, payday lenders or friends and family to make ends meet during the past six months (GMB). With the additional proposed increase to the interest Bank Rate by 0.25 percentage points to 1.25% (Bank of England), this adds even more pressure on UK households already struggling with the rising cost-of-living and demonstrates the clear need for both government and employer wage support.

Government support

As it stands, the government are offering little support to individuals at risk of the cost-of-living crisis. In order to help households alleviate the impacts of spiralling costs, trade unions including GMB and Unite, have urged the government to fund an above-inflation pay rise in the public sector.

Although offering a steep pay rise will help to alleviate the effects of the current cost-of-living crisis, boost economic growth and improve employee morale, the government have stressed that this is not the solution and that it could cause a prolonged period of inflation in the years ahead.

If wages were to increase, businesses may be placed at financial risk and these rising costs may be passed onto consumers. This could ultimately result in the cost of goods and services becoming unbearable for both businesses and consumers and a continued cycle of rising inflationary pressure.  

A ‘summer of discontent’

With the Royal Mail industrial action being labelled as marking the beginning of a “summer of discontent” (Big Issue); there has been a widespread concern over the strikes and their ability to continue throughout the summer of 2022 as the cost-of-living continues to rise.

This comes as the UK recently experienced its largest rail strike in 30 years and the cost-of-living crisis sparks protests over surging inflation across the capital. To avoid the strikes of over 2,400 managers at the Royal Mail, the company must come to an agreement with trade unions that would involve restoring jobs and preserving pay.

Additionally, the government must raise the current National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates to help individuals keep pace with the rising costs and to avoid further strikes in the future.

As the cost-of-living continues to rise, businesses must provide a number of services to teams that provide much-needed support over the challenging and uncertain months ahead. View our top 3 things that you can do to support your employees throughout the cost-of-living crisis here.