Postal workers are working to build support for a possible national strike in Royal Mail following an astonishing strike vote last week.
The workers’ CWU union plans “a massive public engagement exercise” to get people to declare, “I support my postal worker.”
It could see postal workers out on the streets winning support for their fight to defend Royal Mail—and their jobs and conditions with it.
The campaign comes after CWU members voted by 97 percent in favour of strikes.
It was a resounding promise to fight bosses’ plans to smash up Royal Mail and scrap tens of thousands of jobs.
Chief executive Rico Back wants to split Royal Mail 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.
Speaking after the strike vote last week, CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said the issues at stake gave the dispute much broader significance.
“This industry is surrounded by gig economy jobs,” he said.
“People who don’t get sick pay, don’t get holiday pay, don’t get pensions, pay no national insurance and have to have two or three jobs to survive.
“Someone has to make a stand—who better than this trade union?
“We’re not going to mess about—we’re going to have to be deadly serious.”
General secretary Dave Ward said the union would not be afraid to pick “the maximum moment” to strike. “This is the fight of our lives,” he said.
Yet the CWU is now locked into a mediation process with bosses that means official action is unlikely to take place until the end of November.
The union and bosses have until the end of this week to consider a report by an external mediator.
The terms of a previous agreement mean they have to set aside two weeks for negotiations after that. In a message to members, Pullinger said that negotiations with managers suggested they are unlikely to reach an agreement.
But even then, Tory anti-union laws say the union has to give two weeks’ notice before a strike. And bosses will look for any excuse to use the courts to try and stop action.
Postal workers have to be prepared to take unofficial action if bosses run to the courts.
But in any case, the momentum of the ballot campaign can’t be lost. Some union activists are discussing the possibility of a national demonstration.
Paul Garraway, a CWU rep in Oxford, told Socialist Worker, “The problem is we could end up in a lull between the strike result and action.
“A major national demonstration could keep the momentum up and bring posties together.
“And we could use it as part of the campaign to bring the public on side.”