Royal Mail strike 2022: When is it and why are postal workers striking?

The Royal Mail strike could be the biggest industrial action this summer

Close up of a postal worker's bag with post in it
(Image credit: Getty Images)

115,000 Royal Mail workers have voted to go on strike in what could be the biggest industrial action this summer.

It's being called the summer of discontent by many, as EasyJet cancelled flights (opens in new tab) due to cabin crew strikes and the railways are set to grind to a halt one again in the next train strike (opens in new tab).

The cost of living crisis is partly to blame, and Royal Mail is no stranger to this, after April saw stamps go up in price (opens in new tab) thanks to inflation. But now the postal service is facing a fresh challenge as thousands of its workers have voted for strike action this summer. Here's everything we know so far about the Royal Mail strike.

 When is the Royal Mail workers strike? 2022 dates 

Royal Mail workers voted overwhelmingly for strike action on July 19, but no date has yet been set for when the strikes will take place. The vote took place among more than 115,000 members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

CWU general secretary Dave Ward - who has also backed the Enough is Enough campaign (opens in new tab) to tackle the cost of living crisis - said there is now a 'small window' for talks to avoid walkouts before strike dates are set, while Royal Mail said it was 'disappointed' by the vote, adding that "In the event of industrial action, we have contingency plans to minimise customer disruption and will work to keep people, businesses and the country connected."

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The vote comes just after Unite union made the decision to suspend three days of strikes planned at Royal Mail on 20, 21 and 22 July. The trade union's members voted by almost two to one to return to negotiations rather than move ahead with the planned strike, following new proposals by Royal Mail on jobs, pay and conditions.

Unite official Mike Eatwell said "Unite’s members today have accepted the senior management’s return to the negotiating table to improve upon the jobs already put back into the crucial delivery and collections services. Royal Mail’s changed approach is noticeable but there is further to go."

Royal Mail ballot result

97.6% of the CWU members who voted were in favour of strike action, in a turnout of 77% after ballot papers were sent out three weeks beforehand.

With more than 115,000 postal workers voting to strike, CWU are on course for what could be the biggest industrial action to hit Britain this summer. The Union said "The vote can leave no doubt that postal workers are united, and that they are demanding the proper pay rise they deserve."

The CWU is the latest of several unions to ballot for strikes in recent weeks, as the rise in the cost of living has prompted both railway and airport workers to turn to industrial action.

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Why are Royal Mail workers going on strike?

Royal Mail workers have voted for strike action because of a dispute over pay brought about by the cost of living crisis, as inflation in the UK hits 9%.

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.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: "We are disappointed that CWU members have voted in favour of industrial action. We offered a deal worth up to 5.5% for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years, which the CWU rejected. We can only fund this offer by making the changes that will pay for it and ensure Royal Mail can grow and remain competitive in a fast-moving industry.

“Despite nearly three months of talks, the CWU have not engaged in any meaningful discussion on the changes we need to make to adapt."

Royal Mail salary

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

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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 2022

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.

Dave Ward, CWU general secretary, said of the planned strike action: "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."

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Ellie Hutchings
Ellie Hutchings

Ellie joined Goodto as a Junior Features Writer in 2022 after finishing her Master’s in Magazine Journalism at Nottingham Trent University. Previously, she completed successful work experience placements with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue and the Nottingham Post, and freelanced as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. In 2021, Ellie graduated from Cardiff University with a first-class degree in Journalism.