Belfast is not the only flashpoint as Royal Mail launches a massive national campaign to cut costs and jobs in order to “compete against private operators”.
These firms have been greatly encouraged by the government’s rush to open up the market to full competition from January this year.
The assault is so serious that 29 offices are balloting for strikes. Hundreds of CWU union reps were set to meet this week at a special forum to discuss pay, pensions, industrial strategy, automation and more.
Management are trying to whip up fear about new machinery which, they hope, will destroy full-time jobs and clear the way for many deliveries to be done by part-timers on reduced wages.
The union must not jettison hard won rights on the basis of a manufactured panic.
The machines are not here, nobody knows how they will work, and the CWU can demand talks at every stage of implementation. And if there are savings, why can’t workers have a 35-hour working week?
The present attacks have nothing to do with new technology. They are all about fattening profits.
The union must emerge from this week’s meeting with a commitment to national action and a national strike ballot.
It must also defend the union’s right to represent members, and vigorously contest harassment. As part of stepping up the pressure on the workforce, some areas have seen a nasty outbreak of bullying by management.
In east London, for example, workers at Bow Locks have faced weeks of managers policing their every move and seeking to provoke confrontation. This is a crucial week for the CWU, and every activist must push their leaders not to back down.
Postal workers’ dispute round-up
In Oxfordshire around 1,000 workers are to ballot for strikes across the whole OX postcode. The central issue is management recruiting a part-time worker whenever a vacancy arises.
Kevin Duffy, the area delivery rep for Oxfordshire, told Socialist Worker, “As well as cutting hours and changing delivery arrangements, management are filling jobs with part-timers. None of this has been negotiated.”
In Somerset and West Wiltshire around 300 workers are balloting in Taunton, Langport, Minehead, Crewkerne, Ilminster, Chard, Somerton and Wallington offices. Adrian Yeo, CWU branch secretary for Somerset and West Wilts branch, said, “The issue is management imposing decisions and changes in conditions by ‘executive action’ – without negotiations or consultation with the union.”
The specific issue is over Royal Mail unilaterally abandoning a local delivery coverage agreement.
In Cornwall some 150 workers are balloting in Penzance, Helston and St Ives over management seeking to change delivery times through direct talks with individuals rather than through the union.
Tony Lorton, branch secretary of the Cornwall amalgamated CWU branch, told Socialist Worker, “At St Ives management have changed start times and taken out a delivery duty. In Helston they have approached individuals and asked them to do ten-hour shifts.”
In London a one-day strike by counters workers against the closure, franchising and privatisation of high street post offices (crown offices) will take place on Monday of next week. The strike will cover 42 offices in the NW, W, WC and UB post codes. It will also hit Potters Bar and St Albans in Hertfordshire.
John Gaby, the branch secretary of London north western counter and clerical branch, told Socialist Worker, “This is about public services, not private profit. Management are selling off key services. Mill Hill is the next office scheduled for sell-off. This may not be the only day of action over this.”
A strike in Dundee, planned for last Saturday, was postponed after workers at the west delivery office accepted a new deal. Workers in the east delivery office have rejected a deal and are set to strike this Saturday.