POSTAL WORKERS in many parts of Britain staged lightning strikes and protests last week against the implementation of the "Way Forward" agreement which was narrowly forced through earlier this year. As the reality of the deal hit home last week, there were actions in around 20 offices including Oxford, EDO in east London, Chelmsford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Dartford, Cambridge and Slough.
Management in some areas used the new agreement to trample on hard-won rights that have traditionally been respected. In other places managers tried to make the most of unclear parts of it. Drivers' allowances have been particularly controversial, with some workers losing the allowance altogether and others told they will have to jump through hoops before they get the money.
The walkouts forced Royal Mail to back off in several places. The walkout at Oxford won a clarification of the deal which has benefited people across Britain. There is also tremendous anger over the way that Saturday pay and overtime pay have been cut so that some people find themselves only �1 better off-or even worse off-than under the old system.
Many members of the CWU union feel utterly betrayed by their union leaders. A CWU branch secretary told Socialist Worker, "The people at the top of the union, particularly the deputy general secretary John Keggie, toured the country telling us that this was a marvellous offer which we would be mad to reject. "Now we feel lied to. It's a crap deal."
Even offices which had recommended a vote for the deal were on strike against it last week. The Way Forward would definitely be defeated if the vote were retaken now. An Exeter postal worker says, "Now nobody admits they voted for it. The whole office is no voters." Behind the specifics of the Way Forward is Royal Mail's drive to get more and more work from people, and for staff to fit in precisely with the flows of work. The CWU conference next month will see attempts to censure executive members for the Way Forward mess.
There will also be significant opposition to the union leaders' plan to increase the money paid over to New Labour.
- Hundreds of workers walked out at Copperas Hill in Liverpool on Monday in a dispute over disciplinary measures taken against a CWU member.