AROUND 30,000 postal workers in London begin a consultative ballot on 31 March for action over the London weighting allowance. The region is acting because the national union has refused to launch the campaign. MARK DOLAN, a north London branch official, explains why CWU members should vote yes for action.
Socialist Worker strongly backs the call for action but, to reflect the debate surging through the union, we also print an alternative view from LEE BARON, branch secretary of Northamptonshire Amal CWU.
THE CLAIM for £4,000 London weighting deserves the support of the whole union. If we win then it will open the way for improved pay for the whole of Britain. It is not about more for London and damn the rest of the country. Some people are saying that every extra pound for London workers is a pound less for workers in Glasgow or Birmingham or Manchester.
But that's a bosses' argument. They always say there's only a fixed amount of money and that if the business concedes more for part-timers or for maternity rights or for shorter hours or whatever then it must come off the basic pay. The trade union argument is that we want to force more money from management. Every other union follows that logic over London weighting. When Unison and the GMB and TGWU launched a fight for improved weighting for London council workers, it didn't mean less for council workers in the north of England.
It's the same among teachers or in the colleges. Why should the CWU be different? In fact if we can break the Post Office over London weighting then it would be much easier to break them over basic pay. It is not our fault that basic pay is so low. London has consistently voted against accepting the crappy deals.
Last year the same union leaders who are now criticising the London fight were central to throwing away a golden opportunity to fight for better pay for everyone.
Nationally we voted two to one for strikes, but then John Keggie - the union's deputy general secretary - dithered for three months before surrendering to Royal Mail bosses and accepting a two-year deal no better than the one we had originally balloted over.
We don't want a regional pay system and we don't want a fractured union. The divide in the union is between those who want to fight and those who don't - all the regional stuff is just a cover over that. The best way to unify the union is for everyone to support London workers when they fight for better weighting and for the whole union to have a serious campaign over basic pay.
Those two battles can run together, not in opposition to each other.
NORMAN CANDY outlined the campaign in London to increase London weighting in a recent edition of Socialist Worker. What he failed to outline was the concern from areas outside of London that by seeking this increase outside of national pay bargaining the door is opened to regional pay.
All postal workers, regardless of location, are underpaid. That does not give any of us the right to submit a pay claim direct to the chairman of Royal Mail plc. It is against the democratic decisions made by the CWU, it is against the long tradition the union has on national pay bargaining and it goes against members outside of the catchment area.
All unions have ideological battles of left and right. The CWU is being divided by geographical boundaries where a division of the union is seeking an increase outside of the policies agreed by the rest of the union. Norman states he wants a yes vote to 'push national leaders'. I find that incredible when he is on the national executive of the union and so is one of the national leaders.
The national union must take on these issues - but it has to take on these issues for all members. The national union has a mandate to increase London weighting. By dealing with the issues for all members we can keep the principle of national bargaining at the heart of the CWU.
Nobody would disagree that members in London deserve more. Nobody would disagree that all postal workers deserve more. But the way in which we seek better pay for all our members must be through the national union. My first ever strike action was as an 18 year old postman fighting an employer hell bent on imposing regional pay.
It was a one-day strike that lasted two weeks and ended with a national union united on national bargaining. I am not prepared to stand by and watch as that principle is threatened by the union who defended it so well in 1988.
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