Royal Mail postal workerImage source, Getty Images

By Ben King

Business reporter, BBC News

Postal workers are holding a series of strikes, delaying letter and parcel deliveries in the run-up to Christmas.

About 115,000 members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) are taking part in the dispute with Royal Mail.

When are the next strikes?

An 48-hour strike is taking place on 30 November and 1 December.

A further wave of strikes is planned for 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24 December – some of the busiest days for pre-Christmas deliveries.

Postal workers belonging to the CWU voted overwhelmingly in favour of strikes on 19 July, and first took action on 26 August.

A 48-hour strike affecting the discount shopping day known as Black Friday took place on 24 and 25 November.

How will the strikes affect deliveries?

On strike days the Royal Mail says it will not be able to deliver first and second class letters.

However, it will deliver as many parcels and Special Delivery letters as possible.

Where possible, priority will be given to prescriptions and Covid test kits.

The timescale commitment offered on Special Delivery Guaranteed items will be suspended the day before any strike.

People will not be able to claim compensation for late deliveries.

Image source, Getty Images

Royal Mail delivery offices and customer service points will be closed. Letters will not be collected from post boxes.

Royal Mail has hired thousands of agency workers to help process the backlog.

The Post Office is a separate business, and post offices will be open, although some services, such as posting letters, may be affected. Other services such as bill payments and banking will run as normal.

When are the last posting days before Christmas?

The last posting days to ensure delivery before Christmas are currently 19 December for 2nd class and 21 December for 1st class mail.

However, Royal Mail may bring those dates forward if the series of strikes due to begin on 9 December are confirmed.

Why are Royal Mail workers striking?

The action is over pay and conditions.

Median pay at Royal Mail is £32,465 a year, and the average pay for a postal delivery worker is £25,777.

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 – 11.1%.

The CWU wants a higher pay offer. It also objects to proposed changes to working conditions, such as ending a number of allowances and the introduction of compulsory Sunday working.

What does Royal Mail say?

Royal Mail is moving from its traditional business of delivering letters – which is no longer profitable – to the fast-growing world of parcel deliveries, driven by the increasing popularity of online shopping.

It faces stiff competition from other couriers, which give their workers less generous pay and benefits.

The company says it is losing around a million pounds a day, and cannot afford to give its workers a higher pay rise.

It says strikes have added £100m to its losses, and has announced plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs.

The company has improved its offer to workers, including more generous redundancy terms and a profit-sharing scheme.

On 24 November, Royal Mail said it had made its “best and final offer”, and accused the union of “holding Christmas to ransom”.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Postal workers and strike action protesters outside the Mount Pleasant Royal Mail sorting office

Who owns Royal Mail?

Royal Mail was owned by the government until 2013, when it was privatised.

Shares were sold to financial institutions and private individuals, with 10% reserved for Royal Mail employees.

About 6% of the company is owned by employees today.