A growing revolt by postal workers is threatening to scupper the deal negotiated by their CWU union leadership to end the dispute with Royal Mail.
The union's postal executive last month accepted Royal Mail's offer on pay, modernisation and pensions. But a growing number of branches say that the deal is a poor one and are recommending a no vote in the ballot for which papers will be sent out on Friday of this week.
Paul Moffat, secretary of the union's eastern region, is among many leading activists who feel that the deal does not match the determination and sacrifices made by the rank and file of the union.
'Lots of our people feel let down by this agreement and cannot understand why their executive are urging them to accept it as a good deal,' he told Socialist Worker.
The branches who are rejecting so far include:
- Bournemouth and Dorset
- Bristol and District Amal
- Eastern No 6 (Milton Keynes)
- Essex Amal
- Kent Invicta (which covers Canterbury, Medway, Rochester)
- Merseyside Amal
- Newcastle Amal
- North Wales and the Marches
- Northern Home Counties (which covers Enfield and much of Hertfordshire)
- Northern Ireland East
- Northern Ireland No 1
- Northern Ireland West
- Northwest Central (Stockport and Warrington)
- Romford Amal
- Scotland No 2 (Edinburgh and surrounding areas)
- SE Wales Amal
- South Central No 1 (which covers Oxford and surrounding area)
- South East No 5 (the largest CWU branch which covers Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex)
- South East Thames
- South West No 7 (which covers Swindon)
- Southdowns Amal
- Watford No 1
- Western Counties
They were joined on Monday of this week by the North/North West London branch, a decision that will worry the union's national leadership.
They are banking on a London-wide regional recommendation to help them get the deal accepted.
There is a growing realisation that the deal ties the union's leadership into accepting a future attack on pension rights – including the raising of the retirement age to 65. This is despite an insistance from deputy general secretary Dave Ward that the issue had been 'decoupled' from the agreement.
That 'decoupling' sits oddly with the letter that TUC secretary Brendan Barber attached to the deal.
This explicitly mentions a deal on pay and modernisation, and a second deal on pensions – deals which are 'final' and open to 'no further amendment'.
It is clear from last week's CWU reps briefing in London that Ward accepts that there will have to be some reduction of the scheme's benefits. The union is now involved in a 60-day consultation period with Royal Mail to discuss changes.
Reps at the meeting were in no mood for such a discussion.
'The meeting was unanimous against the attack on our pensions,' Bob Cullen, branch secretary of South Central No 1, told Socialist Worker.
'Our pensions are deferred wages and the benefits outlined in the scheme represent our earnings, not Royal Mail's.
'The bosses will try and convince us to accept the closure of our final salary scheme, the raising of the retirement age to 65, and a cut in benefits by saying that this is the only way to save the scheme and the company.
'But that is not true. Royal Mail is a publicly owned service and our pensions liability ought to be a serious issue of the government, not just the business. The union should be turning the heat on Gordon Brown.
'That was one of the reasons why the union needed to mount a political campaign to go with the industrial action.'
Many delegates to the meeting were asking why, if the government can find £50 billion to secure the future of Northern Rock, can it not be forced to find a tenth of that sum for Royal Mail.