The electrical goods retailer Currys has dropped Royal Mail as its delivery provider “for now” because of disruption from the ongoing strike action and has switched to an alternative.
Currys’ chief executive, Alex Baldock, said its first responsibility was to the “UK households who want to get hold of their technology, particularly at this time of year”.
Royal Mail is facing six days of strikes this month, including Christmas Eve. On Friday, it told the public to send their cards and presents earlier than usual if they wanted them to arrive on time.
Baldock said of the decision to suspend the use of Royal Mail: “There is no great drama operationally for us. We plan for this sort of thing all the time. There are relatively few smaller parcels that we distribute through Royal Mail, [and] they are easily switchable to another provider.”
He told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme: “The bigger point here is that clearly on the one hand we see with our own colleagues and our own customers up close, the impact of the cost of living crisis that is obviously at the root of these strikes.
“On the other hand, it doesn’t help when our colleagues can’t get to work. It doesn’t help when we can’t get stuff delivered to customers, and of course a wage-price inflationary spiral is simply going to make things worse for everybody for longer.”
Members of the Communication Workers Union, which represents more than 115,000 postal workers, have already held 12 days of strike action in an increasingly bitter and protracted dispute with management over pay and conditions, with further stoppages planned on 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24 December.
Royal Mail has said the final date for second-class deliveries is 12 December, while for first class it is 16 December. Delivery deadlines to international destinations have also been brought forward.
Currys is one of several major retailers that have been forced to increase wages repeatedly in response to chronic staff shortages and soaring inflation.
Baldock told the BBC programme his staff had been given a 16% pay rise over the past year, above the rate of inflation, because “we need to retain and motivate a workforce”, and that is “the price we are paying for the right talent”.
The news that Currys was switching delivery providers was first reported in the Telegraph, which said undelivered post was piling up in Royal Mail depots.
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “We have been clear with the CWU [Communication Workers Union] that industrial action undermines the trust of our customers. We operate in a competitive market, and our customers have choices. Continued strike action will force our customers to make those choices sooner rather than later.”
They added that strike action “has already cost our people £1,000 each and is putting more jobs at risk. The money allocated to the pay deal should be going to our people, but it risks being eaten away by the costs of further strike action.”