Workers in Royal Mail are gearing up for a major battle after posting a stunning vote in favour of national strikes.
Members of the CWU union in the Royal Mail group voted 97 percent for strikes on a 76 percent turnout in a ballot result announced on Tuesday. Parcelforce workers also backed strikes, with 95 percent voting for action.
It means that more than 110,000 postal workers across Britain could strike in the run-up to Christmas.
It’s a battle to defend their jobs—and the very future of the postal service.
Speaking after the result was announced CWU general secretary Dave Ward said, “A great thank you to our members and our reps up and down the country. We are going to win this dispute.”
The outcome of the dispute will decide whether Royal Mail continues to exist as a public service—or is smashed up for profiting billionaires.
Chief executive Rico Back wants to split Royal Mail up into a new parcels company run for profit, and a letters delivery service that will be run down.
That means taking vital work away from Royal Mail—causing at least 20,000 job losses. And the union fears Back’s ambition to scrap Royal Mail’s obligation to deliver letters six days a week will lead to many more.
Those left will be made to work like robots. Bosses want to use technology such as their handheld delivery devices to monitor everything workers do and find ways to make them work harder.
Meanwhile workers in the parcels company will end up employed on much worse terms and conditions, similar to those in courier services such as DPD or Hermes.
They’re paid per delivery—not by the hour—have to pay for their own vans, and often aren’t entitled to holiday or sick pay.
In the face of this onslaught, union activists went all out to deliver a Yes vote. Mark Dolan, a CWU area rep in north London, told Socialist Worker, “It’s been a real engagement with the members, from headquarters to local level.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a level of engagement or meetings inside and outside the workplace like this before.”
It’s now essential that the union calls hard-hitting action as soon as possible.
A mediation process—demanded by a previous agreement between Royal Mail and the CWU—was set to end on Friday of this week.
Royal Mail could use a legal challenge to stop action if the CWU calls strikes before this is finished. And Tory anti-union laws mean that a union has to give bosses two weeks’ notice before any strike.
Bosses used the courts to stop national strikes during a previous dispute in 2017—and many union activists fear they could do it again.
If they do, workers and the union have to be prepared to defy the law—by walking out unofficially if necessary.
But in any case the union has to keep up the momentum that the campaign has gathered so far.
Activists say it’s unlikely that there will be any official action before mid-November.
A national demonstration before then would be a good way to build public support and solidarity. Mark said, “We should call action as soon as possible.”
He added that there will also be a debate about the type of action the union should call.
Some activists say that “rolling action”—where the different sections come out on different days—can cause the most disruption for the least cost to workers.
Others say a united national strike is the best way to keep up the unity of the campaign.
“My view would be that any action we take should be everyone together,” said Mark.
“We need to give them a succession of dates as well. 48 hours should be a minimum—maybe 72 hours after that.
“We need to go in hard. And it needs to be everyone.”