AROUND 160,000 postal workers across Britain begin a strike ballot over pay next week. London postal workers will also vote in a second ballot over London weighting. Nationally postal workers have been offered a 4.5 percent rise over 18 months. Any larger increase is dependent on mass job cuts, a worse service and even harder terms for the workers.
Two members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) spoke to Socialist Worker about the importance of the battle ahead. 'We're now on a war footing,' said Jane Loftus, CWU executive member. She was speaking to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.
Jane added, 'Around 100 union reps met in Birmingham last weekend for a meeting called by the national union to coordinate the ballot campaign. There was a strong feeling that we are up for the fight. The campaign has rejuvenated the union and given us a chance to forge real unity. A CWU battle bus will visit certain areas to explain the issues and harden up the vote. People are totally fed up with working their guts out for rubbish pay. This is our chance to hit back at management and say that we don't want promises of jam tomorrow-we want the money now. Basic postal pay is just £261.93 a week. We have been promised a basic of £300 a week again and again. But that's still a long way away. We want a big yes vote and turnout to show Royal Mail and the government that we are serious. Our demands are, £300 a week without strings and without job losses. The union must not get caught up in schemes for mediation. They are a trap designed to spin out the process and make us lose momentum. Everyone should get behind us because we can win for everyone and further weaken Blair's anti working class policies.'
Chris Tapper, a Cardiff postal worker, said, 'This is going to be a political fight and it could be a dirty fight.'
He added, 'If we win it will blow a hole in the government's plans to hold down public sector pay and to force through 'efficiencies'. There's pay pressure building up everywhere-in the civil service, over London weighting, on the underground and elsewhere. That makes our campaign even more important and opens up the chance for us to make alliances. Tony Blair has plenty of problems already.
But that doesn't mean the government will draw back from taking us on. New Labour used every weapon in its armoury against the firefighters' union. We have to use all our strength and not go in hoping there will be a cosy compromise. The newspaper reports talk about how much money the Post Office is losing.
But Royal Mail Letters has always made a profit. The Post Office lost money because of Project Horizon, the attempt to upgrade technology which was an expensive failure, and because of management's policy of foreign acquisitions. We're not responsible for management's mistakes. Why should we pay for them?
We've spent last year electing people who said they had the members' interests at heart and they were going to fight. It's now time for those people to deliver. It is good that the union leadership are now saying clearly that they are not prepared to trade predetermined job cuts in exchange for more money. That's a shift from the position some of them were arguing three months ago.
Pressure from rank and file members has forced this change. People are completely fed up with working their pants off for no return. Nobody must be allowed to backslide or get in the way of creating a storm against management and the government.
The rank and file paper Post Worker will be important in developing the networks of activists. We need the most active ballot campaign possible, good yes votes and then effective action. With the result out on 18 September we could strike during, and lobby, the Labour Party conference.
The 27 September demonstration against the occupation of Iraq should also be part of our campaign. How can there be a bottomless pit of money for the war and to occupy Iraq but not enough for public services and the people who work in them?'
Ballot papers go out from Wednesday 27 August.
The ballot closes on Thursday 18 September.
The union executive changed the original ballot timetable in an attempt to make sure no legal challenge was possible from management.
Royal Mail appoints failed post boss
Royal Mail deputy chairman Elmar Toime was appointed this year on a salary of £500,000 plus bonus, pension package, and resettlement from New Zealand. His appointment came days after opposition MPs in New Zealand demanded his resignation. The country's auditor-general condemned 'wasteful and excessive' spending at Transend Worldwide, a New Zealand Post unit.
Toime, New Zealand Post chief executive for ten years, was favoured because of his record of 'driving through change'.
Rank and file paper for postal workers Vote YES for action Special issue of the rank and file paper for postal workers now available. Includes all the arguments you need to win a yes vote in the pay ballot. PLUS voices from the shop floor, report from a recent delegation to Palestine, and much, much more. Order your copy- phone 07753 697 743.
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Royal Mail UK's profit in millions of pounds for its mail operation for 2002-3