A debate is raging among postal workers about a deal brokered between their CWU union and Royal Mail to end the dispute over pay, pensions and conditions.
This is over whether the deal is good enough to end a fight that saw 130,000 workers take eight days of official strike action.
The union’s executive voted to accept the offer and recommend it to the membership.
But five out of 14 executive members voted to reject it.
Now in workplaces and branches the deal is being analysed in great detail. A ballot of CWU members in Royal Mail is expected to start next week.
“This deal comes nowhere near what we set out for,” says Watford CWU branch secretary Alan Walsh.
“It does not meet our demands for decent pay and pensions—and we will still be threatened by Royal Mail’s demand for ‘total flexibility’.
“On pay, the deal will mean a below-inflation settlement. On pensions, we are told that the pension age will be raised from 60 to 65, unless you want to accept a loss of benefits.
“Critically, on flexibility, the deal relies on the idea that our managers are honourable people who would not force workers to do extra hours, or change shift patterns without agreement. But our managers are not honourable people.
“Our members fought brilliantly during the strike. This deal does not repay the sacrifices that they have made.
“That’s why my branch is recommending rejection.”
Many other union activists are angry that their leadership appears to have settled for so little.
“We had the employers on the ropes,” says Paul McIrivine, unit rep indoor at the East London PCO.
“People in my area were up for the fight. We stayed solid, even through three days of unofficial strikes.
“As soon as we returned to work, we faced all sorts of punitive sanctions. Now everybody is asking, ‘what the hell did we go back for?’
“We are all angry, but despite that some people here are going to vote for the deal. Even people who are determined need leadership in a fight, and our leaders are telling us to accept this deal.
“That creates quite a lot of confusion. Add to that the fact that we’ve all lost a lot of money, at least £500, and that Christmas is coming up.”
Despite the pressure coming from the union’s postal executive to accept the deal, some branches have joined Watford in rejecting it.
This week Bristol voted down the deal, as did all the reps in north London. Many other branches were to meet this week to discuss their position.
Even in areas where branches have voted to endorse the deal, there can be resistance from the shopfloor. Many postal workers have been given very little information about what the deal really represents.
It is crucial, therefore, that CWU activists who are against accepting it publicise their case as widely as possible.