The CWU union was set to launch a national industrial action ballot on Wednesday of this week. It will close on 4 October and is a step towards a huge confrontation between Royal Mail workers and their bosses.
At the heart of the dispute is an attack on pensions that could cost some workers thousands of pounds a year in their retirement.But bosses also want to fob workers off with a paltry pay offer, and have a wishlist of attacks aimed at driving down conditions.
The attacks are fuelling growing discontent among workers across Royal Mail. Some workers have already struck unofficially over local issues.
CWU members walked out at two delivery offices last week against management bullying and in defence of part time workers’ rights. Postal workers in Falkirk, central Scotland, took action on Friday of last week after a dispute with local management came to a head.
One striker on the picket line said the walkout showed “the strength of feeling the workers have” over the issue with bosses.
And CWU members at the West Park delivery office in Plymouth, Devon, walked out on Wednesday of last week.
Management had broken a national agreement on how full time contracts are allocated to part time workers, but were forced to retreat by workers’ action.
Ralph Ferrett, the CWU Plymouth and East Cornwall branch secretary, said, “The members weren’t prepared to accept what happened.
"They walked out to defend the proper rights of part timers to receive full time hours in a fair manner. It was really good that the whole office, including all the full time workers, stood behind their part time colleagues.”
He added that the walkout meant that “all the issues have been successfully resolved in favour of our members and our national agreement.”
Ralph explained that the walkout was not directly related to the coming national dispute.
But the number of unofficial strikes across the country has increased as workers gear up for a national confrontation.
CWU president Jane Loftus told Socialist Worker, “The pot is boiling. There are lots of different disputes kicking off in different places”.
Bosses want to close workers’ “defined benefit” pension scheme and shift them onto a much worse “defined contribution” scheme. This means the amount retired workers get would depend on the stock market casino, rather than a fixed amount based on average earnings.
But Jane added that bosses’ other plans to drive down conditions in the wake of Royal Mail’s privatisation meant the dispute was much larger.
“People can see their jobs going down the pan and unless it’s stopped in a few years people will have hardly any work. Or they’ll be on crap pay. New workers coming in will be on totally different agreements.”
Jane said that meant action could take place “mid-October, maybe November in the run-up to Christmas.”
CWU members now have to make sure they deliver a massive vote for strikes—and that the action goes ahead if bosses don’t back away from all their attacks. CWU members have held scores of office meetings to win support for a strike. Building on this can meet and exceed the thresholds under the anti-union laws.
As Ralph told workers on Monday, “It very much looks like we’re going to war.”