Postal Workers could hold a national strike on Wednesday of next week. It would be about pay. Postal workers are fed up with poverty pay-a basic of just £250 a week. Many work six days a week and start at around 5.30am. The executive of the CWU postal workers' union believed it had secured agreement over pay with Royal Mail. CWU deputy general secretary John Keggie said the deal would mean £300 a week pensionable pay by October 2003.
But the deal held out only the vaguest chance of £300 a week, depending on mass job losses, and workers breaking their backs to get bonuses and supplements. Keggie faced resistance to the offer at a meeting of the postal executive and at a union reps' meeting last week.
Then, in detailed talks, delivery management made it clear that they had no intention of enabling workers to reach £300 a week. Management have also said that new delivery trials, which were supposed to try out a range of options, will now only look at a single way of working-the one that bosses prefer.
Stung by Royal Mail's attitude, Keggie announced last week that the union was putting 145,000 Royal Mail workers on standby for a strike next week. However, the union leaders are still desperately trying to avoid action. Workers voted overwhelmingly for a strike in early February. That vote should have been turned into hard-hitting action as soon as possible.
Instead there have been endless talks which have produced only a crappy deal. It is right to strike-and not only over pay. In the background a wider struggle is looming over privatisation and the Post Office's threatened 30,000 job losses.
Postal workers marched through London last week against the regulator's plans which will let private companies grab all the profitable mail while expecting the public service to do all the hard work. The demonstration was badly organised by the union's leaders and held at too short notice. Many union members were angry that the widespread fury over privatisation was not reflected by the size of the march.
However, those who did protest were clear what they wanted. Carlo Giannini from Port Talbot was one of a delegation with a banner denouncing 'Tory Blair'. Carlo told Socialist Worker, 'The government is letting fat cats take over the service. It will see huge job losses. We want an end to privatisation.'
Simon Caller from the Midlands told Socialist Worker, 'Our union is in the front line. If we take on the government over privatisation then we can be heroes. I'd like to see us line up with the rail workers, the hospital workers, the firefighters and the teachers to defend public services.'
John Keggie was forced to say at the rally after the march that there would be action if the Post Office went ahead with its plan to sell off the entire vehicle fleet. Union leader Billy Hayes condemned privatisation, and said the union was ready to withhold £1 million from the Labour Party and 'deploy it where it's going to count' instead.
The regulator's final report will not be out until May. The union has to campaign seriously against privatisation. That means properly built street protests and immediate preparation for strikes.