When is Royal Mail on strike and why are postal workers striking?

Here's what we know about when the next Royal Mail strike will be

A crowd of Royal Mail workers on strike
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After months of disruption, more industrial action is on the horizon - so when is Royal Mail on strike?

Dissatisfaction with pay and working conditions is sweeping across the public sector, resulting in train strikes and London bus strikes on the transport network, and more recently there have been school strikes planned too. Royal Mail workers have already staged industrial action over the past few months, and it looks like disruption is set to continue with more strike days announced.

The cost of living crisis is partly to blame, and Royal Mail is no stranger to this, after last April saw stamps go up in price - and at the same time some stamps are expiring - thanks to inflation. But now the postal service is facing a fresh challenge as thousands of its workers have voted for strike action. Here's everything we know so far, including when is Royal Mail on strike and whether Post Offices will be open.

When is Royal Mail on strike? 

There are currently no Royal Mail strikes scheduled to take place. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) had planned a 24 hour walkout from 12:30pm on Thursday 16 February, but this was cancelled following a legal challenge from Royal Mail.

Royal Mail cited a legal error in the strike notification from the CWU as the reason for the strikes being called off, and added, "We intend to use this time and space for further discussions to try to agree a deal and we have suggested meetings this week."

Though the strike date has been cancelled, the CWU recently re-balloted its members and on Thursday 16 February it was revealed that the union's members have voted to renew the strike mandate - meaning there are more Royal Mail strikes on the horizon.

General secretary Dave Ward - who has also backed the Enough is Enough campaign to tackle the cost of living crisis - said of the vote result: "It is proof that for Royal Mail to begin functioning normally again, there needs to be a change in negotiating approach from its leadership that recognises the depth of feeling from the workforce that make their company."

Meanwhile, a Royal Mail spokesperson has said the company is "disappointed" with the result, adding: "We urge the CWU to seriously consider our best and final pay offer and to work with us to transform Royal Mail and secure its future. That is in the best interests of Royal Mail and all its employees."

Royal Mail ballot result

In the most recent strike ballot, 95.9% of the CWU members who voted were in favour of strike action, with a turnout of 77.3% - a result which the CWU says is the biggest ever return in a major national strike ballot.

Dave Ward has said of the result: "This vote is a historic testament to CWU members across the country who have stood firm against the most severe attacks faced by any set of workers since the miners.

"It is proof that postal workers will not accept their livelihoods being destroyed so that a few at the top can generate serious profits at their expense."

As per the Trade Union Act in 2016, the result of a ballot is only valid for six months, which mean the CWU will have to re-ballot members if it wants to continue strike action past August 2023. 

What will happen during the Royal Mail strike?

Royal Mail said customers should expect disruption to services during the strike days. A statement on their website says: "Royal Mail has well-developed contingency plans, but we cannot fully replace the daily efforts of our frontline workforce."

They add, "We’ll be doing what we can to keep services running, but we are sorry this planned strike action is likely to cause you some disruption."

To reduce the effect of the strike on services, Royal Mail previously advised its customers to send items as early as possible in advance of the strike dates and continue to post items at post boxes or Post Offices - though collections will be less frequent on the strike days.

Will Post Offices be open?

The majority of Post Offices will remain open. Royal Mail and the Post Office are separate companies, so Royal Mail strikes usually don't affect the Post Office opening hours.

However, it is likely there will be some disruption to the following services on days of industrial action:

  • Posting letters and parcels
  • Drop & Go
  • Travel money
  • Banking (cheque deposits)
  • Some identity services (e.g. paper form passport check and send)
See more

Will Parcelforce be on strike?

Yes, Parcelforce will be affected by Royal Mail strike action. This is because Parcelforce is owned by Royal Mail, so some CWU members who collect, sort and deliver parcels for Parcelforce will be striking.

A Parcelforce spokesperson previously said of the strikes: "We have contingency plans in place, and will be working hard to minimise disruption and get our services back to normal as soon as we can to keep people, businesses and the country connected. Meanwhile you can continue to send your parcels and letters and we would encourage you to post early in advance of these dates."

Why are Royal Mail workers going on strike?

Royal Mail workers voted for strike action because of a dispute over pay brought about by the cost of living crisis, as inflation in the UK exceeds 10%.

After talks between the two sides ended, Royal Mail announced it would give CWU members a 2% pay increase backdated to 1 April, and offered a further a 3.5% - subject to further talks and agreements - totalling a 5.5% rise. 

Ricky McAulay, operations director at Royal Mail, said the CWU has failed to engage in "any meaningful discussion" after months of talks.

He said: "The CWU rejected our offer worth up to 5.5 per cent for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years. In a business that is currently losing £1m a day, we can only fund this offer by agreeing the changes that will pay for it."

More recently, Royal Mail has offered a pay deal which it says is worth up to 9% over 18 months. However, this is below the current rate at which prices are rising of 11.1%.

Royal Mail said this was its its "best and final offer", and accused the union of "holding Christmas to ransom".

In addition to rejecting the pay offer, the CWU objects to proposed changes to working conditions, such as ending a number of allowances and the introduction of compulsory Sunday working.

A spokesperson for Royal Mail has said: "Royal Mail is losing £1m a day and must change faster in response to changing customer demands. We operate in a competitive market, and our customers have choices.

"Further strikes and resistance to transformation by CWU will only make our financial position worse, and threaten the long-term job security of our postmen and women. The CWU has a responsibility to recognise the reality of the situation Royal Mail faces as a business and engage urgently on the changes required."

The CWU has accused Royal Mail of planning structural change, which it has said will see cuts to workers' sick pay, delayed arrival of post by three hours and inferior terms for new employees.

Royal Mail salary

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a Royal Mail postal worker is around £25,000. In 2020, the Daily Express reported that postal worker salaries at Royal Mail can range from £13,007 - £34,582, and that the hourly rate is thought to be between £10 and £11.

Is Royal Mail privatised? Who owns Royal Mail:

In 2015, the government sold its remaining shares in Royal Mail, meaning it is now owned wholly by its employees and private investors.

In April 2012, Post Office Ltd became independent of the postal service Royal Mail Group as part of the Postal Services Act 2011. The UK government had initially retained a 30 per cent stake in Royal Mail, but ended the 499 years of state ownership when its shares were sold.

The Postal Services Act allowed private buyers to own up to 90% of Royal Mail, with staff entitled to 10% of the company’s shares.

Royal Mail profits

In May 2022, Royal Mail announced they had turned a profit of £758m that business year. Although this was a £56m rise from the year before, it was below analysts' average forecast of £771m and the company has announced it is losing £1m a day.

The company has said it will need to split if it cannot achieve "significant operational change."

Dave Ward, CWU general secretary has previously said: "While bosses rake in £758m in profit and shareholders take £400m, workers are expected to take a serious real-terms pay cut. Postal workers won't accept their living standards being hammered by bosses who are typical of business leaders today - overpaid, underqualified, out of their depth."

In October 2022, Royal Mail announced plans to cut 10,000 jobs by next August, blaming ongoing strike action and rising losses at the business.

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Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.