Thousands of Royal Mail workers rallied outside their workplaces on Monday of this week at mass gate meetings across Britain.
They’re gearing up for a huge battle to defend their pensions, their pay and the future of their working lives.
CWU union officials told Socialist Worker that a possible 1,400 gate meetings took place on Monday.
The union is going all out to deliver a massive yes vote in a strike ballot set to end on 3 October.
A big vote could lead to the first nationwide walkout of postal workers since 2009—also the first since Royal Mail was privatised in 2013.
The CWU’s “national gate meeting day” on Monday follows weeks of similar meetings.
Mark Dolan, CWU area delivery rep for North and North West London, told Socialist Worker the response from union members has been unprecedented.
“When we didn’t have social media it was difficult to gauge what was going on up and down the country,” he said.
“But I have never seen the amount of workplace meetings as there have been now.”
Bosses want to scrap the various pension schemes workers are currently on and replace them with a “defined contribution” scheme.
This would see less money paid into the pension throughout workers’ careers. And the amount paid out would depend on how well bosses invest the fund in the stock market casino.
Workers who are currently on “defined benefit” schemes—which give a fixed wage in retirement based on their final salary—could lose thousands of pounds.
Colin, who works at Royal Mail’s delivery office in Forest Hill, south east London, told Socialist Worker the changes would “make a big difference to our standard of living”.
“I’m three years away from my pension,” he said.
“I’m expecting a lump sum and monthly pay. But I could lose about £9,000 out of my lump sum and my monthly pension will go down.”
Workers who joined Royal Mail after 2008 are already on a defined contribution scheme. The CWU is demanding a new “wage in retirement” scheme for all workers.
Bosses want to force through other changes to Royal Mail’s operation.
They plan to move delivery times to much later in the afternoon.
Bosses say this is because they want more parcels ordered online late at night to be delivered the next day.
But it will open the door to the possibility of cutbacks.
Bosses tried to break an annual leave agreement but backed down when processing workers walked out in solidarity
Mark said bosses want the changes “so that they can cut a lot of the planes and trucks that move the post around during the night”.
A later delivery time would mean people’s post arriving later—and force workers to reorganise their lives.
Merlin Reader works at the Mount Pleasant mail centre in central London. “People who’ve sorted their life around their deliveries are screwed,” he said.
The attacks pave the way to a part-time, casual workforce. Forcing them through would see Royal Mail try to scrap deals protecting terms and conditions.
Mark explained, “If we didn’t have a legally binding agreement they would leave the existing workforce with the declining traffic—the letters.
“And they would bring in a new workforce on inferior conditions for the traffic that’s growing—parcels from internet shopping.”
The CWU is demanding an extension of the agreements, a shorter working week to ensure full time jobs, and a delivery model with early deliveries and late collections.
Bosses’ attacks are a response to privatisation. They have piled extra work on workers instead of recruiting since Royal Mail was sold off.
Jack said, “They want you to absorb one or two deliveries. You can’t do it because there’s not enough time in the day.”
The anger is building, as a number of recent unofficial walkouts have shown. And bosses are getting scared.
They announced a new pay offer—never mentioned to the union—on Friday of last week. Instead of the paltry £250 lump sum they wanted to give workers, they offered £350 and a below-inflation pay rise.
On the same day distribution workers at the South Midlands mail centre walked out.
Bosses tried to break an annual leave agreement but backed down when processing workers walked out in solidarity.
The CWU branch said the walkout was “a sign of things to come at the biggest Mail Centre as we approach a national dispute”.