Militancy in the post
AT LEAST 20,000 postal workers across Britain were poised this week to ballot for strikes against their pay arrangements over Christmas. The biggest centres affected included the Bristol area (4,000 workers), Cardiff (2,500) and east London (3,000). But at the last moment bosses made enough concessions to get most of the ballots halted.
A national deal about Christmas was agreed between Royal Mail and the CWU union which was supposed to give workers more opportunities to earn considerably extra money. In some areas, however, management refused to concede the cash. A Cardiff CWU member told Socialist Worker, "The Christmas pay was the last straw. We have an arrogant and bullying culture of management in the post and there is constant pressure to get more out of us. We are also seeing a new round of proposals for privatisation by stealth. The good news is that the mood to fight is tremendous, as militant as any time I can remember during the last ten years. Locally and nationally, people are ready to have a go."
Most of the recent struggles have been unofficial, but the mood from below is forcing CWU leaders to call resistance.
Royal Mail has upped the annual pay offer from 2.2 percent to 2.4 percent. CWU negotiators rejected the new figure. CWU deputy general secretary John Keggie said the offer was "full of strings and devoid of real increases for our members". He said it would not even keep pace with increases in the cost of living and was "more provocative than positive".
A vote on a new deal over jobs and conditions was taking place this week at the giant Mount Pleasant office in central London. It means that 600 jobs will go from the Mount to Langley in Buckinghamshire next year. The Dover international mail centre will be phased out by 2006, and all other international centres will be run down over the next two years. Remarkably this offer is being recommended by the majority of the CWU local committee.
A big campaign has recently been launched by the CWU in London to keep jobs in the capital. This deal does not fit what is needed and should be rejected.
Demonstrators in Weoley Castle Square, Birmingham, brought traffic to a standstill for the third time in the last month last week as they protested against the closure of the local post office.
THE BALLOT by postal workers for strikes in Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians against management bullying has resulted in an 87 percent vote for action. Management made some concessions in response. But workers were still maintaining a careful watch on the result of several disciplinaries scheduled for this week. "If people are unjustly treated then we can action the ballot at any moment," a CWU official told Socialist Worker. "The size of the majority has shown that there is a real readiness to make a difference in the way these offices are run."