You might have seen on the news that there is a possible post strike next week.
It is still quite up in the air; they’ve got a week to come to some agreement, and Royal Mail are trying for a court injunction to get the strike declared illegal. There is no information yet on whether this is a one-off, or the start of a pattern between now and Christmas. They always strike at Christmas – I think the union believes that the leverage gained is more valuable than the public goodwill they could lose.
I’m not going to get into the politics of it, but think it’s important to have a plan for if it does happen.
Lessons from last time
Our experience of the last time they did this taught us two things.
First, that orders could still be posted on strike days, but Royal Mail’s policy was to prioritise new post sent on non-strike days. That meant that sacks of mail taken in on strike days were made into huge mountains and sorted with absolutely no urgency over the days and weeks that followed. Post sent the day before a strike also frequently got warehoused; if it didn’t get delivered before they all walked out, it could take weeks before it re-surfaced.
Second, that all the other delivery networks were completely overwhelmed by the sudden additional demand. Since the last bunch of strikes, Royal Mail have lost a lot of market share and the other networks have developed a lot. But I think it likely they will still struggle massively to cope. The only network to come close to competing with Royal Mail’s prices (and which doesn’t use Royal Mail for last-mile delivery) for our size of business is Hermes. They seem to have improved a lot compared to the reputation they previously gained, but talking to people around the country, it is still very variable depending on the region and local depots.
Here’s our plan if the possible post strike becomes an actual one
We will still take orders, but will disable First Class and Special Delivery options in our checkout.
Post for orders placed on strike days and the day immediately before a strike day will be held until we believe it is safe to ship.
This first strike is a 48-hour one, starting at noon on Thursday 19th, until noon on Saturday 21st (coincidentally, that’s Trafalgar Day). I suspect that means nothing will move on the Sunday, so we’d next put post into the system on the Monday.
We are creating local delivery options for customers within about a 10 mile radius of us in Farnborough. That is something we are doing anyway, initially on an experimental basis just for the GU14 postcode. I’m still tinkering with settings; with luck, I may have a way to also set it up so you can pay cash on delivery – watch this space !
If there are repeated strikes
If this possible post strike happens, and then becomes a pattern of a couple of days of strike every week or two in the run-up to Christmas, we’ve got further “tweaks” in mind.
Firstly, we’ll monitor other networks performance as they adapt to the new reality. Assuming there is one or more which look like they are coping and have comparable prices to Royal Mail, we would look to open an account with them and send some experimental orders. Assuming there are no problems, we would then intend to move all our business to a new carrier and away from Royal Mail on a permanent basis.
Sorry for the long essay, I felt it useful to let you know what we’re thinking. We’ll keep you posted ! (sorry, was that a bad pun….)