POSTAL WORKERS are in a bitter struggle with their bosses which will affect the confidence of workers and managers right across Britain. Crucial strikes are scheduled for next week. Several key mail centres were on the verge of unofficial strikes on Tuesday.
Royal Mail bosses have launched a ferocious assault designed to smash one of Britain's best-organised unions. They want to humiliate workers and make them jump to every command. Allan Leighton and Adam Crozier, the top bosses, seized on last week's pay ballot-when workers voted against strikes-to make outrageous attacks. But there is strong resistance, driven by pressure from the rank and file. Some 20,000 workers in London and surrounding areas will strike next Wednesday, during the Labour Party conference.
They voted for strikes by big majorities in a separate ballot to the national one over national pay. In Royal Mail the vote was 11,417 to 4,306. Workers in Parcelforce, Counters, Quadrant (canteen), Logistics (drivers) and Romec (engineers) also voted for strikes. The immediate cause of the strike is to win £4,000 London weighting. Workers are fed up with a London weighting which can be as little as a third of what the police get.
They are fed up with being forced to work 48, 50 or even more hours a week just to get halfway towards a living wage in the capital. But the strike has much greater importance than that. It is a chance for the union to regather its strength.
The good news that London is hitting back comes in the wake of a series of unofficial strikes centred on Oxford. After the pay ballot result management arrogantly told Oxford workers, 'Your legs will be whipped from under you.' Oxford later struck and management then moved their mail to offices including Exeter, Swindon, Gloucester and Bristol.
As Socialist Worker went to press no office had agreed to sort the mail and tension was high. Either management had to back off or risk triggering a much wider dispute. The union's future is on the line. It has to throw its entire weight behind every sign of resistance. The rank and file is doing its best to save the union after the pay ballot setback.
No doubt management, and perhaps some inside the union leadership, regard Oxford and London as the real members of the 'awkward squad'. But the truth is that it is precisely the spirit of Oxford and London which is needed now.
Bosses want to ride roughshod over the CWU union
MANAGERS summoned key union leaders to a meeting and told them 'the world has changed', almost immediately after the pay ballot result was announced last week. They presented the union with a final agreement on pay and major changes to conditions and gave the union an ultimatum that they had to sign the deal there and then.
They informed the union reps that there would be no more negotiations at national level and that not a single word of the agreement could be changed. They then told the union that if it put into action the vote in London 'the world would change again'. They added that there would not be a penny extra to settle the London weighting claim.
Finally the managers said that in the next two weeks they would be producing detailed proposals for a new industrial relations structure covering every aspect of the business. This entire meeting lasted ten minutes.
Dave Ward, the union's deputy general secretary, says, 'It is the executive's unanimous view that Royal Mail now see the ballot result as giving them the green light to impose change totally on their terms, effectively derecognising the union unless we accept everything they demand.'