The postal executive of the Communication Workers Union has narrowly voted in favour of a deal to end the dispute over the privatisation of the Romec cleaning and maintenance section of the Post Office. After a long debate the executive voted by ten votes to six to accept management's offer. The minority who wanted to throw out the deal and push hard for action against the joint venture were absolutely right.
At stake is the CWU's attitude towards private firms grabbing work, and taking more and more business. The proposed settlement will protect the terms and conditions of Romec workers transferred from the Post Office to the joint venture with Balfour Beatty. But it does not entirely rule out future joint ventures. In particular it leaves open the possibility of future privatisation in deliveries.
If this deal is accepted then the CWU will have allowed through a joint venture 'so long as the terms are right'. This is a dangerous precedent. However, the battle over Romec is by no means over.
There has been a strike ballot over the issue, which closes this week. A national reps meeting was also to be held this week to consider the new deal. It will most probably go out to ballot. If it were rejected, and if the strike ballot records a yes vote, then the union leaders would be under pressure to call action.
Activists must argue to throw out the deal at the reps meeting. If that fails then they must demand the whole postal membership is balloted on the offer, not just the Romec section. This is an issue that goes to the heart of the battle over privatisation.