THE new “winter of discontent” continues to rumble on, with the impact of strikes hitting hard in the run-up to Christmas.

Among thousands taking to picket lines across the UK have been Royal Mail workers, who are locked in a dispute with their employer over pay and conditions which began in the summer.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has accused Royal Mail – which was fully privatised in 2015 – of planning to force through mass job losses as part of an “asset-stripping business plan” and running down services to turn it into another “gig-economy employer”.

Royal Mail, which is facing a ­battle to keep mail moving at the ­busiest time of the year, says it needs to make changes to compete and meet customer demand. Here we speak to workers who have been on the picket lines about why they feel the need to take action.

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Michelle Reid-Hay is an Aberdeen-based driver for Parcelforce, which is part of the Royal Mail, and has taken part in 15 days of strike action so far.

She said one major reason for doing so was because a 7% pay deal which was on the table would also result in the loss of a driving allowance – ­leaving her worse off.

She said: “That’s something the ­union put in place many years ago and fought for it and got it – it’s about £1400 a year.

“But they would take it out as part of the terms and conditions for Parcelforce.

“So I would make about £1400 loss a year if I accepted 7% – it’s crazy. Why would I say yes?”

Reid-Hay said like everyone else, she was being impacted by ­rising costs such as energy bills, and had lost hundreds of pounds of pay during the strikes.

But she said another key reason for taking part was to protect the future of the service for the public – and for her daughter, who also works with the company.

“We’re more than a service for delivering letters, I’ve got two customers that I check on regularly that they might not have a parcel that day but I will still nip in and go are you ok today? They are elderly and in the middle of nowhere,” she said.

“Would DPD do that, would Hermes do that? Services will go. And the UK Government saying that they do the anti-strike laws? Rishi Sunak should really have a look at himself when he says things like that, rather than actually fixing the problem. It is trying to stick a plaster on it by saying well you can’t strike anymore.”

Reid-Hay said she understood that it was causing issues for small ­businesses, but that workers were not taking the action with the intention of ruining Christmas.

But she added: “I can’t accept £1400 loss with the pay deal they are giving – they wouldn’t do it.

“The future Royal Mail is very doom and gloom and the ­Government needs to step in because it’s a 500 plus years old service and people take it for granted.”

The National:

Ian, who did not want to use his full name, has been a postal delivery worker with the Royal Mail for more than 20 years.

He said the dispute which began with bargaining over pay had quickly escalated over proposed changes to terms and conditions, including later delivery times which would impact on those who work around commitments such as childcare.

“From a staff point of view, the changes they are proposing will ­completely ruin their work-life ­balance, They are talking about changing the hours of work, annualising hours and bringing in a flexi-time system.

Ian said there had been a positive response from the public when out on the picket line and it also provided an opportunity for staff to bond.

“Every car is tooting their horns, they stop for us, we have had people dropping off doughnuts and biscuits,” he said.

“There was actually a guy who stopped in his truck and had a pile of wood in the back of his truck. He got out his chainsaw and cut it all up for us for our fire. It was wonderful.”

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He added: “Our dispute is particular to us, that’s what we are ­worried about, we’re worried about our jobs. But there does seem to be a feeling that everybody’s in the same boat now.

“You talk to people from all walks of life and they’re all struggling and they seem to be all coming up against the same brick wall when it comes to actually trying to get a fair deal.

“I think the strike will have to succeed – we have no choice.

“The changes will not only be ­detrimental to us, I think they will be detrimental to the whole business because to have that low cost model, you are just going to constantly churn through staff.”

A spokesperson for Parcelforce said after eight months of talks with CWU, it had given the “best and final offer” of up to 7% pay increase over 18 months and part it meant “simplifying” allowances which affected less than 10% of employees.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Extending the network window with later start times is one option that has a number of benefits including environmental because we can reduce our reliance on flights and move to rail.

“It also delivers efficiencies and the ability to provide next day deliveries.”

They added a process would be put in place to ensure a “range of family-friendly options” where practical.