Socialist Worker

Strikes force Royal Mail managers to the table

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2064

On the picket lines in Acton, west London

On the picket lines in Acton, west London

Postal workers in the CWU union have shown how we can challenge Gordon Brown’s 2 percent pay limit. Their solid strike action has forced an arrogant Royal Mail management to the negotiating table.

Managers have delayed the introduction of a change of start times for delivery workers. And despite months of saying there is no more money on the table, they have discovered an extra £23 million.

Some 140,000 postal workers have been fighting to defend the postal service and to win decent pay and conditions.

Royal Mail managers wanted to introduce harsh new working conditions. The Royal Mail Business Plan would have meant up to 40,000 job losses and 2,500 post office closures.

Management have talked tough over recent weeks and repeated Brown’s line over holding down public sector pay. But they have been rattled by the extent and strength of the CWU’s action.

It is clear that the strikes were responsible for producing movement from the bosses.

A joint statement from CWU and Royal Mail announced the suspension of the strike and the start of negotiations. “Both parties commit to talks on all the issues between them, hosted and facilitated by the TUC,” it read.

“Both sides commit to reach an agreement by 4 September.During this period the talks are on a confidential basis with no media or internal briefings unless explicitly jointly agreed.

“Royal Mail will not serve notice or take any unilateral action to impose changes by executive action. The CWU will suspend industrial action.”

It’s good news that management blinked first, but the union should not have suspended the strikes before Royal Mail had given them a real offer.

And holding talks in secret means post workers need to keep up the pressure to ensure any deal reached through negotiation is worth accepting.

But the strikes have clearly hit Royal Mail management hard. There are still over 200 million mail items snarled up across Britain.

Meal breaks

The union’s “do the job properly” campaign – where postal workers don’t use their own cars on deliveries, stick to their proper start and finish times, take all their meal breaks, and have their bags weighed – is still hitting management.

Brown’s commitment to neoliberal economic policies has led to him imposing a 2 percent limit in pay rises across the public sector. This in turn is part of a general clampdown on wages faced by all workers.

So the post workers are in the front line of a battle that all working people face. If they defeat Brown over public sector pay, they win a battle for all of us. And postal workers are now a little closer to making that defeat a reality.

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