Royal Mail and the postal workers’ CWU union were in talks as Socialist Worker went to press.
But unless the company makes serious concessions there can be no satisfactory deal to end the dispute.
Despite two successful strike days last week—and months of local action—the government, the media and even the TUC are putting pressure on the postal workers’ union leaders to settle for less than can be won.
Here are some principles that will be important when assessing any possible settlement.
No 'executive action' changes imposed without union agreement
It is not enough for Royal Mail to say it might reconsider some aspects of the changes that it has rammed through offices this year, and that some of them could be the subject of local negotiation.
Thousands of full-time jobs have gone and the company is using bullying tactics to get those workers who remain to take up the slack.
That means unpaid overtime and working in an unsafe way.
All imposed changes should be withdrawn before any action is suspended.
An end to job losses
Instead of using new technology to further slash the workforce and make bigger profits, Royal Mail should cut the current 40-hour week.
The current drive to replace full-time workers with casual staff and people on part-time contracts must stop.
No more favouritism or bullying by the bosses
The management bullying that is endemic to Royal Mail must be brought to an end—and this cannot be achieved by another “independent review”.
Bullying is not simply the result of the company employing unpleasant individuals as managers, though it is undoubtedly true that it does.
It has become part of Royal Mail’s culture as the company has pushed to get fewer staff doing more work.
The worst culprits need to be removed and the company needs to commit to a more stringent
Duties should be allocated on the basis of length of service—or “seniority”, as it is known—not on management whims or who is prepared to suck up the most.
No victimisations—protect the union
Since the beginning of local strike action in the spring, Royal Mail has been on the rampage against union reps.
Some are facing disciplinary action for standing up for their members. And many more have had their union facility time removed as part of a “punishment charter”.
There must be a cast-iron guarantee that all sanctions and threats are withdrawn before anyone returns to work.
And the bosses must immediately rescind their threat to derecognise the CWU union.
Pay and pensions
Though not formally part of the dispute, the deficit in the company’s pension scheme must be resolved. The government should take responsibility.
Pensions are not a bonus paid depending on how much profit a company makes. They are deferred wages, owed to retired workers.
Royal Mail decided not to make payments into its scheme for 13 years, even though workers continued to make their contributions as normal.
There must be no settlement that involves workers accepting lower benefits or longer working.
Management have announced a pay freeze for workers, while continuing to pay themselves huge bonuses.
Why should workers have to suffer declining living standards when Royal Mail bosses are happy to line their own pockets?