Last week’s announcement by the postal workers’ CWU union that strikes against Royal Mail are to be resumed was greeted with enthusiasm by union activists across Britain.
The CWU gave notice of two 48-hour strikes, one starting on Friday 5 October and the next starting on Monday 8 October.
Both actions will involve all sections of Royal Mail, including delivery offices, mail centres and the network.
They will be followed by a rolling programme of weekly “functional” strikes, in which different parts of the business will strike on separate days.
“The action we’ve announced has sent our bosses a clear message that we are not messing about,” says David Wilshire, Bristol CWU branch secretary.
“There is growing anger among our members, especially as more people see Royal Mail’s proposals for ‘total flexibility’ and an end to the current pension arrangements.
“Management like to portray themselves as tough guys – now they are going to find out how tough we can be.”
Since the break-up of talks between the management and the union, Royal Mail has gone on the offensive.
Socialist Worker has obtained a letter written by Royal Mail director Tony McCarthy to CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward, which attacks the union in the sort of condescending terms you might expect from a headmaster telling off a naughty child.
Management have also announced a series of executive actions that are designed to provoke the union, including:
- Imposition of later starts, meaning that many postal workers will have to reorganise their lives around new shift patterns.
- Ending of Sunday collections and the chance to earn overtime from associated duties.
- Plans to change the pension scheme including closing it to new entrants, delaying the retirement age to 65, reducing benefits and increasing contributions.
- Closure of the ESOS company bonus scheme.
Mike Yarwood, the CWU’s area delivery rep in Merseyside, reports that workers in Liverpool are “absolutely furious” with the changes.
“Everybody knows that Royal Mail wants to go much further than this,” he says. “Its proposals on flexibility – where we will be expected to come in up to two hours early, or stay two hours late – are absolutely unworkable.
“The fact that management put all their plans in a single document has been extremely helpful to us while preparing for further strike action.”
Union activists are now battling to ensure that the mood for renewed action filters down to even the smallest units.
“When you explain what’s at stake, the vast majority of our members believe we have no option but to strike and to strike hard,” says Simon Midgley, the substitute area delivery rep for Bradford.
“There are some who became a bit cynical when the action was called off for negotiations – but with the right campaign they can be won over. We need some really good union propaganda that spells out the case.
“And we need a regular flow of information about what is going on, so that we can explain it to the membership. That way we will keep everyone on board.”
Dave Wilshire is enthusiastic about having the chance to hit back at the bosses after several weeks of management attempts to regain the upper hand.
“Our strikes during the early part of summer created a huge backlog of mail. But volumes of post are much higher now – so we will have an even greater effect. We can bring the entire postal system to a standstill.”