The CWU has got the employers and the government on the back foot. Now it needs to press the advantage home.
It will be disastrous for postal workers, and the whole working class, if this strong position is thrown away. The strikes were very successful, there is a big and growing backlog, and the public back the workers. A BBC poll found that 50 percent of people sympathise most with the postal workers and only 25 percent with the management – despite the torrent of anti-worker propaganda in the media.
Here are some basic principles that should guide the talks this week, and will be important when assessing a settlement:
- No end to the strikes without a clear and acceptable agreement on the key issues. It WILL NOT be enough, for example, for Royal Mail to say it might reconsider some aspects of the changes it has imposed this year, or that it will put them back into the Industrial Relations framework. The danger is that any lull will be used by Royal Mail and the government to get through the pressure period, deal with the backlog, victimise militants – and then announce that they are pressing ahead with 90 percent of the 2009 imposed changes and a whole raft of new ones in 2010.
On Sunday Royal Mail chief executive Adam Crozier said that while he hoped an outline agreement would result in this week's strikes being called off, it would take ‘a couple of months’ to agree any final deal. That is a recipe for defeat. Don't let him get away with it! Postal workers should also remember that the TUC brokered the 2007 national deal which has proved so ineffective – and threw away the pension scheme.
Workers need to know that the changes they have been taking action against (and London workers have lost 17 days pay over) are being withdrawn.
- A shorter working week rather than mass job losses.
- Protection of full-time jobs, not an army of part-timers.
- Recognition of seniority so that management cannot pick and choose who they want to do the tougher walks.
- No deal without action against management bullying – and not just another ‘review’. Eight years ago there was a massive ‘independent’ review (The Sawyer Review) that was supposed to have solved the bullying issue. It failed utterly. Bullying takes place not just because of unpleasant individuals but because of the culture to get more and more work from fewer and fewer workers. That inevitably leads to brutal methods. In truth the only guard against bullying is a strong and active union which is prepared to take action. But the worst culprits among management also need to be removed.
- A cast iron guarantee of no victimisation and the withdrawal of the disciplinaries as a result of the dispute. Some twaddle about ‘dealing with these questions professionally’ will not be enough.
- No reduction in union rights.
- Action over pensions and pay.
The CWU must use its strong position: build the strikes and demand that the whole working class gets behind this vital struggle.