Royal Mail has announced it will offer doorstep parcel collection for free until the end of the year as it tries to boost its UK business in the face of significant losses.
The service allows customers to arrange for a package being sent or returned to be collected directly from their home by a postal worker as part of the daily post round.
The announcement comes as the company faces four days of strikes in a dispute over pay, which Royal Mail has said would push its UK business to a material loss in the current financial year.
Royal Mail said its Parcel Collect service had been a success since it was launched in October 2020 and formed part of efforts to “continuously make our services more convenient”.
Customers are able either to hand a parcel straight to a postal worker or to provide details of a safe place from which it can be retrieved. The company said anyone sending or returning a parcel on its app or website would now have a free collection automatically booked for them.
It added that, by removing the need for customers to travel, the service helped to lower carbon emissions.
Last month, thousands of Royal Mail workers voted in favour of a four-day strike over pay in what could be the biggest industrial action of the summer.
The action, the first of its kind since 2009, is currently scheduled for 26 and 31 August and 8 and 9 September, and will partly overlap with similar action by workers at BT and the Post Office.
The Communication Workers Union said Royal Mail management wanted to impose a 2% pay rise which, because of soaring inflation, would amount to a “serious real-terms wage cut”.
It also pointed to the £758m profit made by Royal Mail Group, which operates Royal Mail and a number of global services, last financial year.
The general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Dave Ward, said workers needed “to see a pay rise now that reflects … that they have turned the fortunes of the company around, and the cost of living crisis”.
Royal Mail said that, from April to June this year, it had made an adjusted operating loss of £92m, representing an 11.5% fall in revenue.
It added that it may be forced to split its domestic and international businesses if it does not achieve “significant operational change”.