Bosses at Royal Mail appear to be following their blueprint for slashing thousands of jobs next year by doing all they can to put off strikes before Christmas.
Union activists in many areas report that management is now prepared to discuss key areas of disagreement that sparked a wave of local strike action that began in June.
At Islington delivery office, in north London, bosses had insisted that four‑day working patterns “were history”.
They now say they are prepared to reconsider them.
“It’s too early to say whether management are really prepared to honour the ‘interim agreement’ signed by the company and the union last month,” says Islington union rep Dave Morrison.
“They are making concessions on some issues, in some offices, but are playing hardball in others.”
Many reps warn that this is part of a company plan to make strikes before Christmas unlikely, but that bosses are preparing to restart their offensive in the New Year.
This strategy was clearly outlined in a management document published by Socialist Worker in the autumn.
Johnny Hunt, branch secretary of the union’s Essex branch, fears the worst.
“There’s no question that Royal Mail is sticking to its plan,” he says.
“And it’s not just union activists like me who are saying it – it’s on the lips of everyone who works at my mail centre in Chelmsford.
“But if we have to come out on strike again in the New Year, then so be it.”
Royal Mail is set to introduce new technology into offices across Britain next year and is already planning a “headcount reduction” – meaning it intends to sack thousands of postal workers.
Discussions between the company and senior union officials about this are due to conclude within days, but sources close to the negotiations say that management are determined to ride roughshod over the union.
It is clear that if the union had not suspended its national strikes, it would now be in a better position to resist future attacks.
Nevertheless, many reps report that their members remain ready to restart the fight. It is vital that the union leadership do not waste this anger.