Postal workers’ union, the CWU, threatened on Thursday of last week to ballot for strikes to defend pensions.
The previous day Royal Mail announced plans to rob some 90,000 workers of thousands of pounds from their pensions every year.
Some workers could lose almost £4,500 a year—more than £100,000 over the course of retirement—the CWU said.
CWU official Ray Ellis said that “any attempt by the company to impose change without agreement will be met with the strongest possible opposition including a ballot for industrial action”.
Bosses want to replace the defined benefits scheme with a worse defined contribution scheme. That means workers will have to pay more but won’t know how much pension they get until they retire.
Merlin Reader, a CWU rep in central London, told Socialist Worker, “The employer’s contribution goes from 17 percent to 10 percent or 11 percent. How much we get at the end depends on the stock market.”
The attack on pensions is part of a bosses’ wish list that includes attempts to drive down wages and conditions—and a big attack on the union.
Royal Mail wants to get rid of supplementary payments workers currently get for extra duties such as driving.
Bosses also want to “restructure” redundancy procedures, make it easier to launch disciplinaries against workers over attendance and introduce worse terms and conditions for new starters.
And there are moves to seriously weaken the union by getting rid of area reps—the backbone of the CWU’s regional organisation.
It’s all about making Royal Mail more “competitive” since it was privatised in 2013.
Merlin said, “We didn’t have the massive attacks before the selloff like workers in other privatised industries such as BT did. But we’re starting to see those now.
“It’s an attack on the union, but it’s about how a private business operates—doing over agreements, the union and the workers”.
The CWU is set to to launch a fightback, focused around defending pensions.
Union leaders are likely to announce a ballot at the CWU’s conference in Bournemouth this week.
They have already launched a petition campaigning around “four pillars” of security including a pension deal and agreements that protect conditions.
There will also be a debate on how best to resist. Emergency motions call for a fight and suggest national strikes.
Merlin said, “The petition is about getting CWU reps out talking to members and building for a fight.
“But I think there’s going to be an argument about what’s realistic and what the members are up for.”
He added, “There’s got to be a strong argument that we need to go all out to win this.”