Royal Mail has this week ripped up the pensions arrangements of thousands of postal workers – without any agreement from the unions.
The company has closed its final salary pension scheme and introduced new arrangements that will see many workers forced to delay their retirement from 60 until they are 65.
The new scheme will require most to pay more in contributions in order to receive less in benefits – with some long-standing scheme members standing to lose up to £20,000.
CWU union members were expected to massively reject the changes in a union-organised ballot to be announced as Socialist Worker went to press.
It is imperative that the CWU moves quickly from that ballot to announcing a programme of national strike action.
As Simon Midgley, the union’s substitute area delivery rep for Bradford, argues, “Our leadership must urgently start a major campaign that shows our members and our activists that the union is serious about putting up a fight over pensions.
“We must also be prepared to challenge the government as Gordon Brown has given the liberalisation of postal services his wholehearted backing.
“We must show him that we will not accept any more attacks.”
In addition to the assault on pensions, postal workers are facing a further series of attacks.
The government, which has given Royal Mail’s attack on pensions its blessing, is assessing its “liberalisation” of the “postal market” in a review of postal services.
Postcomm, the industry regulator, encourages private firms to compete with Royal Mail and doesn’t think that the company has fully embraced its schemes.
It is demanding still more advantageous terms for private operators – and more attacks on the union.
Postcomm last week told the review that it wanted to see Royal Mail undergo “fundamental reform”.
That could mean the break-up of the company into separate units, or even the privatisation of all or part of the business.
Simon is clear that the union’s fight over pensions is part of a wider fight to save Royal Mail as a public service.
“The stakes are incredibly high,” he said.
“Effective strike action is the best way to challenge Postcomm’s plans to further undermine Royal Mail by favouring private companies.”
Both the company and the regulator are attempting to talk up a “crisis” in order to ram through changes to working conditions.
Last week Royal Mail told pension fund trustees – including those nominated by the unions – that if they didn’t accept the changes, there was a danger that Royal Mail itself could be declared bankrupt.
This is utter nonsense. The idea that the state-owned mail company, which delivers almost 99 percent of post across the “final mile” to our doorsteps, is going to go bust is just not tenable.
The company’s hardball approach must now be met by the full force of the union.