Postal workers have only a few days remaining in which to vote on the deal negotiated by the leaders of the CWU union to end their dispute over pay, modern-isation and pensions.
Many leading activists feel that the vote could be close, and that every vote will count.
More than a third of all postal union branches have issued recommendations to their members to vote against the deal, arguing that it will open the way to attacks on working conditions and pensions.
The union’s leadership has responded by issuing a podcast to CWU members via the union’s website.
On it deputy general secretary Dave Ward says that the deal “is the best that can be achieved in the circumstances” and that on pay the deal offers a real improvement from management’s original position.
But the podcast also reveals the thinking behind the recommendation of a yes vote, much of which is based on the premise that Royal Mail is in deep financial trouble and that workers will have to make sacrifices.
When talking about the issues of flexibility and pensions, Dave Ward repeatedly says that CWU members must accept that “we really cannot face away from change”.
On the issue of pensions, he says, “We understand the need for reform because when you look at the figures you can see that no change on pensions will cripple the business financially.”
Ward makes no mention of the way Royal Mail bosses helped create the problem in the pension scheme by refusing to pay into it for 17 years, and says nothing about the obligations of the government towards the service.
“Our pensions are our deferred wages, and no one has a right to take them from us,” says John Woodhouse, branch secretary of Newcastle Amal CWU.
He points out that while postal workers are being told to make sacrifices for the “good of the business”, Royal Mail bosses are doing anything but.
“Our chief executive is being rewarded for failure,” he told Socialist Worker. “Adam Crozier cut thousands of jobs and plans to close more than 7,000 post offices.
“He gets a 26 percent pay rise, taking his total package to £1.25 million.
“That’s why our branch is not buying the idea that we must all tighten our belts. We voted unanimously to recommend a no vote in the ballot, and we are doing everything we can to communicate our case to our members.
“We are telling people that the deal as it stands is way too ambiguous about the introduction of new working practices – and that offices with weaker union organisation may well find themselves being forced to give up hard won terms and conditions.
“The deal also opens up the possibility of a major attack on pensions. Working until you’re 65 might be an option if you are a company director, but it’s much less attractive to our members who are doing a physically hard job and working long hours.
“Our reps report that the mood in the units is, ‘If eight days strike action got us improvements in the original offer, then we will need another eight days action to get the deal we deserve’.
“The question now is whether the financial pressures of Christmas undermine that spirit.
“What is clear is that if our union leaders gave a clear call for new strikes, most of our people would have little hesitation in following them.”