The leader of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) declared Friday’s industrial action as “the biggest strike in the UK since 2009”, as he said more than 115,000 postal workers were out protesting over pay.
It comes as a video by Peter Stefanovic has gone viral supporting the postal workers.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward says his members voted in favour of the strike by 97.6% in a ballot, after management “imposed” a 2% pay rise on employees but “rewarded themselves with record bonuses”.
Friday’s strike will be followed by further stoppages on Wednesday August 31, Thursday September 8 and Friday September 9.
Scores of CWU members, including Mr Ward and a person in a Postman Pat costume, were rallying at a picket line in Whitechapel, east London, on Friday.
They banged drums, waved flags and clutched placards outside the Royal Mail Whitechapel Delivery Office, as passing drivers beeped their horns in apparent support.
Enough is enough
One man shouted “enough is enough, millions for the bosses, pennies for the workers”.
Members also chanted “Thompson out” – a reference to Royal Mail’s CEO, Simon Thompson – to the beat of drums.
CWU boss Mr Ward told the PA news agency: “This is the biggest strike in the UK since 2009, and we have got over 115,000 members who are out on strike today after delivering a massive ‘yes’ vote.
“And it’s over pay, and our members just lost total confidence in the actions of the company, the board, and they’ve lost faith in the leadership and people will understand that when they see the way that the company have conducted themselves.
“The company made record profits last year: £758 million. They gave away over £400 million to shareholders, they rewarded themselves with huge record bonuses for achieving their financial targets and then imposed a 2% pay increase on postal workers.
“Against the background of rocketing inflation, rocketing energy bills, it’s simply not acceptable.
Pillars of our society
“Postal workers in the UK are one of the last remaining pillars of our society.
“We are going to fight hard to get our members the pay deal that they deserve.”
He added: “In regard to the Labour Party, what we want is full support from them in this dispute, it’s a just cause.”
On Thursday, a Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Tomorrow’s CWU strike thrusts Royal Mail into the most uncertain time of its 500-year history.
“It is putting jobs at risk and making pay rises less affordable. We are losing £1 million a day.
“We must change to fix the situation and protect high quality jobs.
“We want to protect well-paid, permanent jobs long-term and retain our place as the industry leader on pay, terms and conditions. That is in the best interests of Royal Mail and all its employees.
“We apologise to our customers, and the public for the inconvenience the CWU’s strike action will cause.
“We have offered to meet the CWU numerous times in recent weeks, but they declined each invitation, preferring to spend their time on the political agenda of the UK trade union movement.
“We remain ready to talk with the CWU to try and avert damaging industrial action and prevent significant inconvenience for customers.”