Royal Mail staff have voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of strike action, with a union not ruling out the prospect of national walkouts in the run-up to Christmas.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said a ballot of 110,000 staff had a turnout of 73% – with 89% of voters backing industrial action.
Any strike would represent the first at Royal Mail since its controversial privatisation four years ago.
The CWU said its next move will be decided at a meeting later this week, but insisted the vote indicated a clear feeling among members that Royal Mail bosses should step aside because they no longer have the trust of front line staff.
The dispute surrounds the closure of Royal Mail’s final salary pension scheme to new entrants, the terms of a replacement scheme, and also rows over pay and delivery office closures.
The CWU says its list of gripes with the company are all linked to the privatisation – accusing bosses of cost cutting and asset stripping to satisfy shareholders.
Deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said: “This ballot result is hugely significant and demonstrates a strength of feeling that can only be translated as a massive vote of no confidence in the managerial leadership of the Royal Mail Group and the direction that they advocate.
“Any sense of vocational spirit and working together with management has been lost in a climate of fear and insecurity.
“This massive failure in trust has created a breakdown in relationships and a toxic environment where working together to solve difficult problems has become almost impossible.
“The managerial leadership has failed and should resign or be sacked.”
Royal Mail has insisted there are no grounds for industrial action and said a legally-binding agreement concerning dispute resolution – made with the union in 2013 – prevented the CWU from taking strike action until that process had been exhausted.
The company said it remained committed to finding a deal on pensions and pay, with offers still on the table including wage increases of 5% – linked to productivity improvements.
“Industrial action is damaging for our business. It undermines the trust of our customers. It makes it harder to pay for the great terms and conditions we provide for our employees.
“National industrial action means the current offer from Royal Mail, including on pensions, will be taken off the table,” its statement said.
The company also pointed out that a strike would be self-defeating for staff as they owned a fifth of Royal Mail shares.
The result was announced just after financial markets had closed for the day – with the value of Royal Mail’s shares already down almost 17% in the year to date, partly reflecting strike concerns.
Rival Parcel Hero was quick to jump on Royal Mail’s woes, warning any strike action could “cancel Christmas”.