National strikes in Royal Mail could be back on the cards after bosses launched a major attack on postal workers.
The CWU union said it could give notice for industrial action after bosses decided to scrap letters delivery on a Saturday. The move by Royal Mail is a major part of a broader assault on postal workers—which could cause 20,000 job losses.
Bosses announced on Tuesday that they will temporarily suspend letters deliveries on Saturdays. They claim this is to protect workers’ safety during the coronavirus outbreak, and to handle the increased workload.
Yet they have long wanted to ditch Royal Mail’s obligation to deliver letters six days a week. It’s a central part of their plan to smash the service up.
Chief executive Rico Back wants to split Royal Mail into a parcels company run for profit, and a letter company that will be run down. That would involve tens of thousands of job losses and a major assault on working conditions.
Postal workers reacted with fury at the news. “They put this out with no consideration to shift patterns, work force feelings, or commitments,” commented one. We’ve had enough. Let’s walk.”
“Put out dates for industrial action,” said another. “It’s the only way now. Rico is doing his utmost to destroy this union. We can’t let this happen.”
And another said, “Let’s trigger the ballot and walk out on the day of the executive action. Let’s do it. Don’t waste any more time.”
In a letter to CWU branches, union leaders said they were planning to “draw up” notices of industrial action to send to bosses. Postal workers voted by 94 percent to strike against bosses’ assault in a ballot in March, though union leaders held off action as the coronavirus crisis hit.
The union is also calling on its members not to cooperate with the changes on Saturday. That would involve sticking to shifts bosses have tried to change or cancel—and could lead to flashpoints and clashes.
The letter said, “With immediate effect Representatives and members should not cooperate or give any local agreement to any deployment of management’s plan.
“In defiance of the company’s unilateral action, all members should continue to adhere to their currently agreed duty/attendance arrangements.”
Speaking on Tuesday, CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said Royal Mail had “declared war” on postal workers and the union.
He had hoped for a truce with bosses during the outbreak, and proposed that Royal Mail become an “additional emergency” service to deliver vital supplies. But without the threat of action to back that up, or to refuse to deliver items such as junk mail, bosses ignored union leaders.
Instead they have used the coronavirus outbreak to push on with their plans—as they have with every delay and offer of talks.
Defeating their plans will have to involve national strikes—and that means announcing strike dates now.