The possibility of a Christmas postal strike in Northampton is looking increasingly more likely, a union leader has said, because of a national dispute over pensions and working hours.
The Chronicle & Echo has learned that staff at the Swan Valley-based South Midlands Mail depot have been holding a series of crunch meetings in recent weeks to discuss support for industrial action.
In April Royal Mail calculated that the annual costs of maintaining its pension scheme would triple to £1.3 billion a year if no changes were made.
The FTSE 100 company made a more affordable pension offer to staff in July, which it said would only cost the company £400 million a year.
The offer was accepted by the Unite union, but the Communications Workers' Union (CWU) rejected it.
If an agreement cannot be reached between the CWU and the Royal Mail by August 15, there is a strong possibility the union will ballot to strike over Christmas, affecting deliveries during the busiest time of the year.
Area processing rep for the CWU Gareth Eales, said there was support for industrial action here in Northampton too.
He said: "We hope as a local union branch that national talks reach a positive conclusion and that a deal to protect the future prosperity of both the company, the industry and our members' terms and conditions is achieved.
"If that does not happen, we are very confident that our members will support the CWU's vision and back us in any ballot that may come."
In recent days staff at the Swan Valley depot have been pictured outside of the facility holding the crunch meetings on a set of picnic benches.
The CWU believes around 90,000 Royal Mail workers across the country will have to pay more into their pension pots under the new deal, work longer hours and revceive less back in retirment than they do currently.
The union is also concerned about the future direction of the company and whether it will continue to honour the current staff pay conditions.
The formerly taxpayer-owned Royal Mail was floated on the stock market in 2013 amid opposition from the CWU, which represents about 95 per cent of Swan Valley's 1,100 staff.
At the time, the CWU said 96 per cent of its 100,000 members were against the sale.
A Royal Mail spokesman said: "We want to agree a fair and affordable deal to maximise the number of quality jobs at Royal Mail. We offer the best pay, pension and employment benefits in the UK delivery industry. This will not change. We remain committed to providing the best pay and terms and conditions in our industry.
"Any industrial action – or the threat of it – will damage our business. It undermines the trust between Royal Mail and its customers. Customers do not have to choose Royal Mail. They have lots of other options. When we lose business, we lose money. There would be less money to fund jobs, pensions and the industry-leading terms and conditions we offer.
"If there is industrial action then the Company may be forced to withdraw the proposals. In the event of industrial action, the Company may not even be able to afford the great pay and terms and conditions we currently provide."