Royal Mail management is making an outrageous attack on postal workers’ right to strike. It requires a national response.
Workers in two Dundee delivery offices have voted 80 percent yes for strikes over management’s cost-cutting moves. In particular CWU union members are angry that new workers were being offered contracts of 30 hours or less.
Management responded by telling the union that in the modern competitive world it was simply unacceptable to upset the business in this way, and in future any strike – official or unofficial – would be met by sanctions such as loss of facility time for union reps and the imposition of “efficiency savings” without agreement.
Joe Malone, the branch secretary of Scotland Number 5 branch which covers Dundee told Socialist Worker, “We will be considering our response over the next few days. Proposals will soon be going to the union’s executive and the local membership. We do not take kindly to the way management has behaved.”
Dundee management’s actions are not some local aberration. Royal Mail has lectured the CWU’s deputy general secretary Dave Ward that the union is sanctioning too many industrial action ballots over the cost-cutting measures and that this must stop.
Such arrogant attitudes are an attempt to face down resistance as key issues are played out over the next few weeks.
These include the impact of competition, mechanisation, the threat of privatisation, the introduction of more and more part-time labour and the reorganisation of pay systems.
The CWU sent out a pamphlet to members this week which set out the stark choice for workers. Royal Mail has a vision of a low wage, mainly part-time, disorganised workforce, the union has a vision of a decently paid, mainly full-time, unionised workforce.
Royal Mail would like to follow the model of the Dutch postal system where TNT has replaced 14,000 of 25,000 full-time mail jobs with 20,000 part-time “mail deliverers”, who are 50 percent cheaper to employ. They are paid 10 percent above the minimum wage.
Given all these attacks, it is welcome that the CWU is preparing to launch its own consultation of workers about the plans for privatisation.
Also welcome is the decision by other branches to ballot on similar issues to Dundee. But a national assault requires national action in response.
It is not enough to hope that each office under the cosh will show resistance and prevent appalling conditions being introduced. Feeling isolated, some offices may collapse and let through conditions which could then be generalised.
Postal workers’ reps meet in Newcastle in February to discuss the way forward. Unless Royal Mail and its Labour political masters make a wholly unexpected U-turn there will have to be a campaign for hard-hitting national action.