Royal Mail postal workers across Britain staged a mass show of force on Tuesday as they gear up for what their union leader called “the most important dispute in the recent history of industry in this country”.
CWU union members are preparing for a national strike ballot to stop bosses smashing up Royal Mail—along with their jobs, pay, conditions and union.
Speaking to workers outside a delivery office in Brighton on Tuesday, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said the coming fight will be “a watershed moment”.
Royal Mail bosses led by chief executive Rico Back are planning a major attack that the union says could cause as many as 40,000 job losses.
Those who keep their jobs will be made to work like robots or suffer low pay on zero hour or bogus self-employment contracts.
It’s the biggest attack that postal workers have faced since Royal Mail was privatised in 2013.
Back wants to break up Royal Mail into a parcel delivery company run for profit, and a separate letters firm that will be run down.
Bosses hope their new parcel company will allow them to employ workers on much worse conditions similar to those in other private courier firms.
A documentary exposing conditions in Back’s European parcels company GLS found employees working up to 13 hours a day and often forced to drive while dangerously tired. It’s a vision of the future Back wants for Royal Mail’s parcels. Meanwhile, jobs will be slashed from the declining letters company.
Those left will be forced to take on extra workloads and pushed to work harder.
Pressure to do that has already sparked a stream of unofficial walkouts against bullying Royal Mail managers at workplaces across Britain.
CWU members are set to vote on whether to stage national strikes to stop the attack, in a ballot running from Tuesday 24 September until 15 October.
The union wants a thumping Yes vote—and a turnout that will smash through the 50 percent turnout threshold demanded by Tory anti-union laws.
Royal Mail workers have held union gate meetings at workplaces across Britain to make sure that happens—including with an impressive show of force on Tuesday.
CWU area rep Mark Dolan told a meeting in Islington, north London, “I’ve done about 40 years in Royal Mail. This is the most serious attack on terms and conditions ever.”
He added he thought the coming battle wouldn’t be like previous disputes, ending without strikes after union leaders use the ballot result to force a new deal. “I don’t think we’re going to get an agreement off the back of that Yes vote,” he said.
“You’re going to have to be prepared to strike.”
Mark Antony, a rep at the delivery office, told Socialist Worker, “This Rico Back is not someone to play about with. We’re going to make sure he’s not able to take our terms and conditions.”