Lecturers, teachers and postal workers from region join picket lines in strikes over pay, jobs and conditions

Picket lines have been started outside postal delivery and sorting offices as well as universities in the region as the dispute over pay, jobs and conditions continue.

A CWU picket
A CWU picket

Royal Mail workers, university lecturers and teachers have all walked out on strike on Thursday in one of the biggest walkouts of the year after talks broke down.

It involves members of the University and College Union (UCU) as well as the Communication Workers Union (CWU) at Royal Mail and comes ahead of Black Friday.

Pickets have been set up outside Royal Mail's Sun Street office in Wolverhampton and the delivery office in Kingswinford on Moss Grove where people gathered early on.

Omari Smith, a postman and the CWU representative for Kingswinford, said: "The support has been good and there's been quite a few people driving past honking their horns in support of us, it's been really positive.

"At the moment, these strikes are costing us individually – it's costing quite a bit and for me it's about £125 per day, for others it's around £100 or so. It's really costing us and everyone wants to see the Royal Mail and the union sit down and agree something that's in the interests of the workers and the customers.

"These strikes may be costing us money, but it's something we're fully behind – we're fully behind the CWU. A lot of things have been misconstrued in the reports, a lot of people think it's about pay but for me pay is secondary and what it's really about is the terms and conditions they are trying to impose on us.

"Speak to most postmen and women across the country and they're just really concerned about their terms and conditions being torn up and that's what we're fighting."

Union members will also strike on Black Friday – one of the busiest days of the year for delivery companies, whilst strikes are also planned in December including Christmas Eve.

Royal Mail said it has made its “best and final offer” aimed at resolving the dispute, including “extensive improvements” made during negotiations with the CWU, such as an enhanced pay deal of up to nine per cent over 18 months, offering to develop a new profit share scheme for employees, and making voluntary redundancy terms more generous.

Meanwhile a picket line has also been set up at the University of Wolverhampton along with the University of Birmingham and University College Birmingham.

Nationally, around 70,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) will strike on Thursday and Friday, and again on November 30, in a dispute over pay, pensions and contracts.

The union says lecturers and other academic staff have suffered a decade of below-inflation pay rises, with a three per cent increase announced in the summer.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “University staff are taking the biggest strike action in the history of higher education. They have had enough of falling pay, pension cuts and gig economy working conditions – all whilst vice-chancellors enjoy lottery-win salaries and live it up in their grace and favour mansions.

“Staff are burnt out, but they are fighting back and they will bring the whole sector to a standstill.

“Vice-chancellors only have themselves to blame. Their woeful leadership has led to the biggest vote for strike action ever in our sector.

“Students are standing with staff because they know this can’t go on, and they know that a sector which generates tens of billions of pounds each year from tuition fees can afford to treat its staff fairly.

“Further disruption can be avoided if the concerns of staff are addressed with urgency. But the overpaid vice-chancellors killing our sector should be under no illusion – 70,000 dedicated university workers are ready to take even bigger action in the new year.”

Chloe Field, National Union of Students vice president for higher education, said: “Students stand in solidarity with university staff going on strike.

“We have always been clear that staff working conditions are students’ learning conditions, and for more than a decade both have come under attack from a sector that puts profits above education.”

Meanwhile, Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will meet Transport Secretary Mark Harper ahead of a fresh round of train strikes set to devastate services across the country over the festive period.

Mr Harper said he hopes for a “sensible conversation” with the RMT but that he will not negotiate with the union, adding: “That’s very clearly for the trade unions and the employers – Network Rail and the train operating companies.

“But I do think in this case it’s important to meet with the unions. These strikes are not just about pay, this is about long-running talks that are actually about delivering rail reform.”

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