The UK Royal Mail Postal Worker Strike – Why Online Merchants Worldwide Need To Pay Attention Now

There are 24 days left until Christmas, and for about one-quarter of them, Royal Mail workers are expected to strike as there has been no resolution between the postal workers union and the postal operator.

For small business owners in the UK, but also worldwide that ship orders to the UK via their domestic postal service (such as USPS from the United States), these last few weeks before Christmas are going to be nerve-wracking if the strikes continue as planned.

Currently, Royal Mail Postal workers are expected to stage walkouts on the following dates:

  • Thursday, December 1
  • Friday, December 9
  • Sunday, December 11
  • Wednesday, December 14
  • Thursday, December 15
  • Friday, December 23
  • Saturday, Christmas Eve, December 24

The battle between the Communications Workers Union (CWU) which represents 115,000 plus Royal Mail postal workers, and Royal Mail is extremely bitter.

On UK TV news programs, Royal Mail has accused the CWU of ruining Christmas, while the CWU claims everything Royal Mail management says is a lie.

The big issue is that the CWU workers demand pay raises that address the current cost of living crisis in the UK.

Inflation in the country is currently running at nearly 12%, but Royal Mail has offered a “best and final offer” pay deal only up to 9% over 18 months, along with a number of other benefits.

While on the surface the deal Royal Mail proposed may sound “reasonable” given the additional benefits, the CWU maintains that Royal Mail plans to cut a large number of postal worker jobs and replace them with self-employed (contract) workers for less pay.

The postal operator has already announced 10,000 job cuts to be implemented by next August, blaming the national strike action and rising costs. CWU believes the number may go up to 25,000.

It’s easy to see the glaring differences in these two sides from recent video clips broadcast on UK TV.

How Will This Strike by Royal Mail Postal Workers Impact Deliveries in the UK?

Considering the impasse between the two parties, online merchants and marketplace sellers should expect shipping delays, especially on the days following worker walkouts.

Domestic UK

While Royal Mail still says some mail services (ie Royal Mail Tracked 24) can be sent as late as Thursday 22 December, that seems overly optimistic and risky, especially with planned strike days on the 23rd and 24th.

To be safe, shippers should probably add at least 2 to 3 days of buffer to the recommended last posting dates by Royal Mail.

International Inbound to UK

While international sellers technically may still have a few days left to ship packages to most European countries using priority or air mail parcel services offered by their domestic mail operators, after Friday, 2 December, express services are almost the only hope of reaching UK customers in time before Christmas.

For USPS shippers this means USPS Priority Mail International Express; for Canadian shippers, this would be Xpresspost International; and Australia Post shippers should choose Parcel express.

The situation gets more critical in about a week when even express mail services may become too risky as well.

At that point, USPS customers should choose Global Express Guaranteed and Canada Post customers should look at Priority Worldwide. Both of these services are actually transported through the FedEx network.

Of course, other options international shippers could choose are courier services such as UPSFedExDHL Express, or Ascendia USA, which partners with DPD Courier in the UK to deliver packages from the US.

DPD may be an option for some European shippers, in addition to other companies such as Hermes (Evri) or TNT (FedEx).

The bottom line is time is running out for cross-border shipments to the UK unless shippers pick private courier services or mail express services.

Starting now, shippers should inform customers that unless they choose an express-level mail service or courier company, standard (cheaper) mail shipments to the UK may not make it by Christmas.

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