Socialist Worker

CWU postal workers gear up for a national strike ballot

by Jane Loftus, CWU national executive (personal capacity)
Issue No. 2034

Postal workers met in London last week to discuss strategy (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Postal workers met in London last week to discuss strategy (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Pressure is growing from postal workers for a national strike ballot. The CWU union’s executive has little choice but to discuss action after a national briefing last week for branch union reps gave an absolutely clear indication of the mood for action.

Everyone wanted to see the union use its full strength and not to allow individual branches to be picked off by bosses.

Reps were angry that management are riding roughshod over national and local agreements. Cuts are being pushed through almost everywhere and some mail centres are earmarked for closure.

At several offices full time jobs are being replaced by part time ones when they fall vacant.

Drivers of HGVs have not been offered anything like a decent pay package to compensate them for their loss of earnings when new restrictions on hours due to the Road Transport Directive are brought in.

Management’s plans are an insult, and the feeling among network and distribution drivers is that unless there is an official strike ballot, there will be unofficial action.

And seniority – the system which prevents managers picking and choosing their “favourites” in the workplace for the easier jobs – is also under attack.

The union’s postal executive is holding a series of meetings to consider the next move.

Meanwhile, according to the BBC, the government is to reject a demand from Royal Mail’s management that 20 percent of its shares should be granted to staff. This would have been a privatisation move.

If true (and the union has been told nothing officially) the move is a sign of the government’s fear of strikes if it pushes through the scheme.

It is also worried about the turmoil it would cause in the Labour Party. This government is weak and vulnerable because of the debacle in Iraq.

Without overstating it, the CWU has been in the forefront of action – official and unofficial – in recent years.

It is no accident that it has fought off privatisation in Royal Mail and defended retirement at 60 for both existing staff and future starters.

This should not lead to any complacency. Huge challenges are looming. The “shadow” share scheme which is being floated has its own dangers (see below).

And the regime of competition with private firms unleashed by the government is now having an effect.

The Department for Work and Pensions has handed its mail contract to a private firm. BT has done the same.

This will lead to Royal Mail management howling for more cuts in jobs and for increased productivity.

This is a key moment. The government is weak – it’s time to fight.

We need national action, and unlike the campaign last year which was called off at the last minute, we should strike this time and continue until we win.

Shares plan is a con

Press reports have stated that the government has been forced to ditch boss Allan Leighton’s big idea of part-privatising Royal Mail by “giving” 20 percent of it to the workforce in shares.

This is a victory for the CWU union’s campaign, an important aspect of which was the threat to suspend funding to the Labour Party if it went ahead.

But reports say that the government may approve giving “phantom shares” to workers, worth £5,000 over five years, but with no ownership rights.

Share “dividends” would be related to how much profit Royal Mail makes—and be funded by up to 40,000 job losses.

Leighton wants to create a culture of profit-related pay to bribe us to work harder and cut jobs. But post workers need a decent wage rise whether Royal Mail is making profits or not.

Royal Mail can afford to give us a pay rise of £20 a week. If that was put into our basic pay, then it would still be there for five years and beyond. Decent pay must be the CWU’s priority.

Simon Midgley, CWU Substitute Area Delivery Rep, Bradford & District Amal

Back these fights in the post

The most high-profile local disputes in the post at present are in the Stoke area and at Manvers in South Yorkshire.

In both, managers are refusing to engage in serious discussions and are out to defeat the union (Pressure is growing for a national fightback, 13 January).

Messages of support for the Stoke area strike should be sent to CWU Midland No 7, Lindsay Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs ST1 4EP. Fax 01782 272 978, phone 01782 285 833, or email [email protected]

Messages of support for the Manvers strike should be sent to Graham Clough, branch secretary, South Yorkshire & District branch, 52 Bank Street, Sheffield S1 2DR. Email [email protected]

To support the current campaign against the closure of Coventry mail centre go to the CWU Coventry website and for Gloucester go to Save Gloucester Mail Centre.

On the picket line at Manvers

On the picket line at Manvers

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Article information

Sat 20 Jan 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2034
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