November 4, 2019 / 12:32 PM / 10 days ago

REFILE-Royal Mail says union rejects strike offer as UK election looms

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LONDON, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Royal Mail said the Communications Workers Union (CWU) had rejected its offer aimed at avoiding strike action for the rest of the year, a move that could affect mail deliveries ahead of a general election in December.

Royal Mail wrote to the CWU to say that if the union provided a binding commitment to remove the threat of strike action for the rest of 2019, the company would enter into discussions without preconditions.

“The CWU has said it is not prepared to take up this offer made by Royal Mail,” a Royal Mail statement on Monday said.

The CWU did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans ahead of the election.

On Twitter, it said its strike ballot was called well before the election, and that if a previous coalition government led by the Conservatives “hadn’t forced the outrageous privatisation of Royal Mail we wouldn’t be here”.

The union said last month that its members voted by 97% in favour of a nationwide strike because the company had failed to adhere to a pension deal agreed last year.

An early general election is set for Dec. 12 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unable to get his deal for Britain to leave the European Union through parliament by a deadline of Oct. 31.

“In the event of industrial action in the run up to a General Election, election mail will be our number one priority. We will invest significant resource to seek to ensure a seamless process for the handling of postal election material,” Shane O’Riordain, Royal Mail managing director of regulation and corporate affairs, said.

Royal Mail volunteers would work on processing and delivering election mail, he added.

“A binding commitment from the CWU to remove the threat of strike action during the period of any general election is vital to ensuring a seamless electoral process in relation to postal votes,” O’Riordain said.

Royal Mail said it was meeting the CWU to discuss the union’s request for an increase in payments postal workers receive for delivering poll cards and mail sent by parliamentary candidates.

The former British monopoly faces the threat of renationalisation from the opposition Labour Party, which plans to return utilities including National Grid and SSE , train companies and Royal Mail to public ownership.

Labour moved sharply to the left under its leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is hoping to exploit turmoil over Brexit to win power. (Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; editing by Giles Elgood)

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