UK - Royal Mail could face further pension strikes unless it provides a "satisfactory response" to concerns over pension changes, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has warned.

At the union's annual conference in Liverpool, Dave Ward, deputy general secretary of the CWU, claimed Royal Mail was "doing the Oliver Twist thing" by asking the government for more money to pay for pensions.

"They want between £8bn (€10bn) and £9bn from the government, which they know will not be given, so they will come out and say the only solution is privatisation," said Ward.

Earlier in the day, members had voted unanimously in favour of national industrial action ballots over pension changes that came into force on April 1, alongside the arrival of post office closures and potential job losses.

A spokeswoman for the CWU said there was no timetable for the ballot as yet, as the union intends to "go back to the business one last time, and any action would depend on whether we get a satisfactory response from Royal Mail".

Although no dates have yet been confirmed, the spokeswoman said the meeting is expected to take place at some point in the "coming weeks".

However, if Royal Mail refuses to back down on the pension changes - which include closing the defined benefit (DB) scheme to new members from March 31 2008 and changing benefit accrual after April 1 from a final salary to a career average basis - the CWU has passed a resolution allowing it to pursue strike action. (See earlier IPE article: Unions urge rejection of Royal Mail deal)

The union's postal executive was given authorisation at the conference to begin the process of moving towards possible strikes, which officials said would be timetabled to "maximise pressure on the company and the government".

Other options currently being considered by the union include a high profile demonstration outside the Labour Party's conference in September, in an effort to open a "second, political front" in the campaign.

Ward said: "With the right campaign now, both politically and industrially, we can find some of the right solution. There's no way we can win without an ultimate political solution."

That said, the CWU warned unless an agreement is reached with Royal Mail over the various issues at stake "strikes appear inevitable".

Although Royal Mail announced the changes to its £23bn DB scheme in March, it has since admitted the fund's deficit £3.4bn had "significantly increased" following market changes.

Just a week after this, the UK postal regulator PostComm suggested the UK government may be pressured into taking responsibility for the pension scheme in an effort to make the postal service more efficient. (See earlier articles: Royal Mail admits "significant" deficit increases and Royal Mail pension deficit could pass to UK taxpayers)

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