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Royal Mail accord with workers ‘under threat’, says union

A fragile peace between Royal Mail and its workforce is in danger of unravelling after a trade union accused the company of not honouring the “spirit and intent” of an agreement that ended strike threats last year.

The Communication Workers Union has alleged that a wide-ranging deal that resolved a bitter dispute sparked by changes to pensions, is “under threat” from management at the privatised postal service.

The agreement, which was one of the final acts of former chief executive Moya Greene, included pay rises and new pension proposals. It also contained a promise to reduce weekly working hours from 39 to 35 by 2022, subject to productivity improvements.

“Although they are talking as if they are acting within that agreement I don’t believe there’s any true spirit and intent with them to support that agreement and that’s extremely concerning,” said CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger in a video message to union members.

It comes as the two sides prepare for external mediation over how Royal Mail developed plans to expand its network to improve parcel handling. In a sign of brewing tensions, the union last week warned members of “the eventuality that this dispute may not be resolved by negotiation alone”.

Rico Back, who took over as chief executive at the 500 year-old company just over a year ago, has sought to reshape its strategy in the wake of a profit warning in October. Scepticism among investors since the warning has left the stock below its 2013 flotation price.

Royal Mail insisted it was abiding by the terms of the deal and said since the implementation it had awarded two pay rises of 5 and 2 per cent, as well as granting the first hour’s reduction in the working week despite only having generated “some of the savings to pay for it”.

“We are committed to open and constructive engagement with the CWU. We all want a successful and sustainable company that provides good quality jobs, fairness in workloads, and continues delivering,” it added.

The FTSE 250 group said it had tabled proposals on the shorter working week but was disappointed by the lack of progress in discussions with the CWU. As a result, it has invoked a dispute resolution procedure giving another 30 days to continue discussions.

Mr Pullinger told the FT that a funding formula proposed by the company on which the next hour’s reduction would be based was “unachievable”. “The 2018 agreement was a blueprint for the future — mutual interest and benefits,” said Mr Pullinger. “I don’t think we share the same vision any more.”

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