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Royal Mail declares war on unions as bosses warn it must adapt or die & More Breaking News

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Royal Mail’s relationship with the CWU has long been governed by agreements that would be unthinkable at most other companies.

The most totemic of these is the “Agenda for Growth”, struck by former chief executive Moya Greene in December 2013 just months after the company’s bumpy stock market debut two months previously.

Described as “groundbreaking” and “the first of its kind in the UK”, the contract commits the parties to “a can-do culture”, while granting an extraordinary range of protections to workers and even in some cases handing veto powers to the CWU.

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It includes promises not to outsource any part of the business, to grant all new employees the same employment terms as staff who joined before them, to allow workers to keep their hours if they want to, and to not make anyone redundant where possible.

While the deal would have looked iron-clad to the union bosses who signed it at the time, it can be terminated in certain exceptional circumstances, including if there is “national-scale industrial action”.

Under the terms of their 2013 agreement, an extensive process is laid out for both sides to resolve disputes – but within Royal Mail this is now seen as pointless.

Bosses argue that the deal, and others like it, are simply being “used by the CWU to frustrate transformation”.

On Thursday the company claimed that, after five months of talks, the CWU “continues to delay and block the changes we need to compete and protect jobs long-term”.

“We need to break the impasse and move ahead with our transformation,” a spokesman said, adding that it had invited the CWU to talks with dispute resolution service Acas.

Williams and the company’s board knew the decision to end the agreements with the CWU would be an incendiary move, but felt they had no other choice.

When the moment finally came, it appeared to shock union leaders at Thursday morning’s meeting, one insider claimed.

“They might have seen it coming but I don’t think they expected us to actually pull the trigger,” the person added.

Royal Mail has gone for the nuclear option as it pushes for changes that management believe are vital to safeguarding the future of the business.

As letter volumes plunge and demand for parcel deliveries grows, the company wants ways of working that better suit the age of internet shopping.

This includes the introduction of automatic parcel-sorting machines, the construction of vast parcel delivery hubs, rota changes that would require postmen to deliver later into the evening and on Sundays, and the introduction of parcel tracking for customers.

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