Royal Mail workers are starting a 48-hour strike which the retail sector has warned could cripple the Black Friday discount shopping season.
The strike is being led nationwide by 115,000 employees represented by the Communications Workers Union (CWU).
It is the latest stoppage in a long-running and increasingly bitter dispute over wages and the company’s modernization plans.
The CWU rejected the “best and finaloffer on Wednesday.
The walkouts are deliberately timed to coincide with the pre-Christmas shopping season – a crucial revenue generator for royal mail – as strikes will also hit on November 30 and December 1, affecting Cyber Monday deliveries.
Other strikes are scheduled for December 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24.
Retail intelligence firm Springboard predicted a busy few days ahead as cash-strapped shoppers look to grab bargains amid the cost of living crisis.
He predicted that point of sale visits Black Friday will be 12.8% higher than Black Friday 2021.
Fears of interrupted deliveries could force more bargain hunters to turn to stores rather than online stores.
The eBay Marketplace said a survey of its small business members showed half of them viewed the impact of the Royal Mail walkout as “disastrous” for demand.
eBay UK Managing Director Murray Lambell warned: “The UK has one of the most sophisticated e-commerce economies in the world, with small businesses thriving by growing their retail operations detail online.
“But industrial action risks creating chaos at the worst possible time for businesses and families.
“Skyrocketing energy prices, rising interest rates and the backlash of political unrest have made it extremely difficult for small businesses to operate at this time.
“Adding industrial action, which largely disrupts deliveries and sales, to the most important time of the year for trade, is likely to be the nail in the coffin for many small businesses.”
Michelle Ovens, founder of Small Business Britain, said: “Small businesses are under incredible pressure right now, with every area of business under pressure and cash flow a huge issue.
“The widespread disruption caused by postal strikes will jeopardize a critical sales channel for many small businesses during the critical peak period when every sale counts.
“We need to do everything we can to help these businesses recover and grow, and minimize barriers where possible, without imposing them further.”
The government “is not in a position to grant salary increases in line with inflation”
Civil servants will go on strike – affecting ports, borders and transport
Overall, Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers will work closely with their delivery providers on contingency plans to ensure customers can get the goods they need, especially on Black Friday and in the run up to Christmas, which is so important to consumers and retailers in this very difficult year.”
The CWU argues the Royal Mail proposals mean it is fighting for the very survival of the business as we know it.
He claims the proposed terms would turn Royal Mail into an ‘economy-style parcel mail, reliant on casual labour’.
Royal Mail says it needs to modernize to survive.
She asked to be excused from her Saturday letter delivery requirement and wants to be able to deliver more cost-effective parcels seven days a week.
He says the strikes to date have cost him £100m.
Royal Mail’s parent company IDS said without a deal it could separate the UK operation from IDS and threatened to cut thousands of jobs on top of the 6,000 already in consultation.
The union this week took a vote of no confidence in Royal Mail chief executive Simon Thompson.
He said of the company’s offer on Wednesday: ‘The talks lasted seven months and we have made numerous improvements and two salary offers, which would now result in a salary increase of up to 9% over 18 months. , plus a host of other improvements.This is our best and latest offering.
“Negotiations involve give and take, but it appears the CWU’s approach is to simply take. We want to reach an agreement, but time is running out for the CWU to change its position and avoid further damaging strikes tomorrow.”
CWU General Secretary Dave Ward replied: “We are disappointed that instead of reaching a compromise to avoid major disruption, Royal Mail has chosen to pursue such an aggressive strategy.
“We will not accept that 115,000 Royal Mail workers – the people who have kept us connected during the pandemic and made millions in profits for bosses and shareholders – deal such a devastating blow to their livelihoods.
“We urge every member of the public to stand with their postman and support him like never before.”