LONDON POSTAL workers have this week started an unofficial ballot for action to win an improved London weighting. The decision, which was provoked by the failure of the CWU union's pay campaign to deliver results, has caused fierce argument inside the union. Even branches and individuals who would normally back militant action have criticised London for 'trying to take money from the rest of the country'.
This is a dangerous acceptance of the bosses' argument that there is fixed pot of money for pay and that gains for one section must inevitably lead to less for others. The truth is the size of the pay bill is constantly open to struggle between management and workers.
The Post Office is in the middle of making 30,000 job losses. Only an idiot believes this will mean that the money previously paid to these workers will be redistributed to the remaining workforce. Instead it goes towards Post Office profits.
The union needs to fight so the pay packets of everyone are improved. A victory in London could open the door to pay rises for everybody. The London pay claim has become part of the campaign around the forthcoming election for CWU deputy general secretary (postal). The voting does not begin until 24 April, but the battle has already started. The two candidates are John Keggie, the present holder of the position, and Dave Ward.
Dave Ward, the assistant secretary (outdoor), built his reputation inside the union as a London divisional rep from 1996 to 2001. He is calling for a more determined approach to win gains from the employer and for a more open union.
Keggie is for 'partnership' with the employer and cosy relations with Tony Blair. Keggie, whose pro New Labour views are increasingly a hindrance to winning support, is now desperate to hang on to his position. A leaflet circulating within the union from a group of Keggie supporters says: 'Dave Ward and other NEC members are at the centre of London's pay claim and their actions are the destructive forces which are now destroying the union. We cannot afford to be led by a small minority of power-crazed representatives who are hellbent on creating divisions and breaching union rules as and when they deem fit.'
Socialist Worker has no evidence that John Keggie himself is behind such material. But there is a real danger that he can harvest votes by posing as the champion of 'the national union's interest'. Postal workers should argue for: (1) Pressure on the officials to launch a united campaign of militant action to win decent pay for all. (2) Support for the London weighting campaign and for action to win that claim. (3) Opposition to all attempts to divide the union on a geographical basis.
Socialist Worker is also calling for a vote for Dave Ward when the election comes. We disagree with many of the policies he has defended, in particular the sellout of Romec over privatisation. But a victory for Keggie would be a big step backwards for the union.