Post workers are debating a deal between their union leaders and Royal Mail to end the long running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.
At a CWU union national briefing in Bournemouth last week the mood among many senior union reps was one of grudging acceptance of the agreement.
“The national executive are putting a lot of pressure on full time officials to sell this deal to unit reps, and for them to sell it to the members,” says Simon Midgeley, area delivery rep for Bradford.
“But the mood in the offices can be quite hostile.
“Delivery workers are angry about losing the money they earn for taking out junk mail, and they are not happy about the prospect of Saturdays becoming a normal working day.”
Paul Turnbull, an area processing rep in Cambridge, agrees that there is a gap between full time reps and the shop floor. He says that many workers in mail centres are particularly worried about the scale of job losses to come.
“Dave Ward says that we should expect up to 24,000 redundancies and wholesale mail centre closures,” he says. “That’s created quite a stir here. Everyone knows that every lost jobs will mean those that remain being pushed to work harder.”
“I’d say that reps here are split 50/50 on whether we should back this deal.”
Reps who questioned the deal at the national briefing were told by the national executive that there was no alternative, and that there is no stomach for a fight among the members.
It is true that the union, by calling off the national strikes in the run-up to the crucial Christmas period, played into management’s hands, and that winning renewed action would be more difficult now.
But, says Simon, that doesn’t mean that postal workers should accept what’s on offer.
“Members voted down the ‘Way Forward’ agreement in 1999.
“If the members believe the union’s leadership are serious about fighting they will back the union all the way.”
Three members of the union’s national executive voted against the deal.
Some union reps in areas that led local fights prior to the national dispute are backing the broad sweep of the deal, while accepting that much of the detail will be fought over on an office-by-office basis.
“The managers that provoked our strikes are still in place and as anti-union as ever,” says Johnny Hunt, from Essex. “We know they are going try and use the agreement to push through what they want – longer deliveries, increased flexibility, and Saturday as a normal day.
“It’s down to the strongest parts of the union to stand up to that pressure, and set an example for the rest of the country.”
But even if some of the more militant areas do fight, there is a real danger that without a stronger national agreement, management will bulldoze weaker areas into acceptance.
For a leaflet against the deal go to » http://charlieswp.posterous.com