IN ONE of the most extraordinary trade union ballots in history, London postal workers have voted by 19,803 to 91 votes for action over pay. This could lead to unofficial action that would stop the post across London. The ballot was a 99.5 percent vote to take on Post Office bosses. It was called unofficially because national CWU union leaders refused to sanction it.
The result, on a 68 percent turnout, is a clear message to those union officials that their lack of action is a disgrace. At present postal workers' London weighting is just £3,250 for inner London and £2,016 for outer London.
The ballot result was announced at a packed meeting last week of 200 CWU reps. London divisional rep Martin Walsh said, 'The employer and the union must now listen. This is not just a London matter and we have support from areas outside the capital. We have had enough of talking. Now is the time for direct action. The national union must take official action or we will be forced to consider what we should do ourselves. The union ignored us, the employer laughed at us, then they attacked us. But we will win if we take the members with us.'
Mark Baulch, another divisional rep, said, 'Our argument is the cost of living in London, not the recruitment and retention problems of the employer. The soaring costs of housing and transport and everything else in London apply to all workers, not just those in parts of the capital where they find it hard to get people to do the job.'
He then turned to the recent document produced by John Keggie, the CWU union's deputy general secretary postal. Keggie opposes the London campaign. He has written that the union is likely to be offered a 3 percent pay rise nationally, adding £90 million to the pay bill. He says that the London claim would cost £52 million, thereby taking most of the increase from outside London.
Mark Baulch said, 'We never agreed that £90 million was the limit of the pay rise. We have never said that a pound more for us should mean a pound less for other parts of Britain. The point is we have to fight for a better deal for everyone and more money from the employer. We won't get what we want by asking nicely. The only way to get results is to fight. At present we have a do-nothing policy from a do-nothing deputy general secretary.'
John Denton, the London regional secretary, said, 'We are discussing with other unions - the RMT, FBU, Unison, NUT, Natfhe and others - what is the most effective way to campaign over London weighting. I am going as part of a regional TUC delegation to Ken Livingstone to tell him that if he wants London to be a world class city then it needs world class public services. The people who work in those services must have decent pay.'
A speaker from north London explained how he had done meetings to explain the ballot at 22 offices in his area. He said there was deep anger at low pay and a total determination to fight over the issue.
To applause he said that there should be an unofficial day of action if union headquarters would not sanction official resistance. The clear feeling of the meeting was for action before the CWU conference in June unless the national officials start leading a fight. London CWU officials were meeting the union's general secretary, Billy Hayes, this week and then reporting back to the members.