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LONDON, Nov 23 — Strikes by British postal workers in the run up to Christmas look set to go ahead after Royal Mail’s largest labour union rejected the latest pay offer from the company today.

The post and parcel company said it would increase wages by up to 9 per cent over 18 months, instead of the previously planned two years, in its “best and final” offer, as it urged workers to call off strikes.

However, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said industrial action planned for tomorrow and Friday — Thanksgiving and Black Friday, respectively — would go ahead after talks ended without an agreement.

It is expected to make a decision on further stoppages planned in the run up to the holiday season later in the day.

The dispute is one of many raging across Europe as workers and businesses alike grapple with soaring inflation, which hit a 41 year-high of 11.1 per cent in Britain last month.

Shares of Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distributions Services, were down 4.5 per cent at 1349 GMT.

“We are disappointed that instead of reaching a compromise to avoid major disruption, Royal Mail have chosen to pursue such an aggressive strategy,” CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said in a statement.

“We will not accept that 115,000 Royal Mail workers… take such a devastating blow to their livelihoods.”

Last month, the union rejected Royal Mail’s offer that included a 7 per cent salary increase over two years, plus a lump sum payment of 2 per cent of pay this year, alongside other changes the CWU said were “unacceptable”.

Royal Mail said today its latest offer would make Sunday working optional and include “more generous” voluntary redundancy terms than originally proposed.

The union has held multiple strike days in the past few months and drawn up plans for another 10 days of stoppages between November 24 and December 24.

Royal Mail has warned that if strikes go ahead the group may have to withdraw the pay proposal because financial losses could make its offer “unaffordable”.

In its new offer, Royal Mail also committed to no compulsory layoffs until the end of March. The company last month warned of thousands of job cuts as it slid into the red. — Reuters