CWU union leaders abandoned their declared timetable and drew back from issuing official notification of a strike ballot on Monday of this week.
The reason they gave was that “since the union announced the timetable for industrial action, Royal Mail has returned to the negotiating table with a different outlook on the negotiations.
“On pay, pensions, job security and extending efficiency we believe there has been major progress.”
CWU sources suggested to Socialist Worker on Tuesday that in particular the 2.9 percent pay offer would be extended to bonuses and other payments.
However, it was also clear that on Tuesday there was not actually a deal to resolve key aspects of the dispute which led to the strike ballot process in the first place.
The union’s postal executive was discussing the matter as Socialist Worker went to press.
Wide divisions still existed between the union’s positions and management’s draft of a deal.
In particular there was no agreement about the trials of the walk sequencing machinery, which threatens to devastate jobs. And Royal Mail has raised new demands around “door to door product”.
This refers to the advertising and promotional material delivered alongside normal mail. At present workers get an extra payment for doing this. Royal Mail may want to put some or all of it into the normal workload.
If there was a change to door to door payments this would affect earnings. The danger is that bosses could offer a bit more on pay but then whisk it away through changing door to door.
It was wrong to hold back from calling the ballot. There was no authority for the union’s top leaders to depart from agreed policy without wider consultation and agreement.
Whatever concessions Royal Mail chairman Allan Leighton has made are a result of the pressure of the strike ballot.
He was humiliated last week when his attempt to go over the heads of the union and call national meetings of reps from every office ended in crushing failure. Only a few dozen non-management people turned up, despite bribes such as offering night shift workers two nights off if they came to a meeting.
Not calling the ballot lets Leighton off the hook. Royal Mail workers should ask themselves:
- Is there a decent pay rise this year and a timetable towards raising wages to the British average pay?
- Is there a guarantee that the present pension age and level of contributions will be maintained?
- Are there clear and acceptable terms of reference for walk sequencing trials?
- Is there a plan for a 35-hour week to protect and improve jobs?
- Are privatisation and share handouts off the agenda?
- Is there a guarantee that no more agreements will be imposed rather than negotiated?
- Has Royal Mail drawn back from its plan for 40,000 job cuts, endless “flexibility” and efficiencies?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then they should join the calls to issue the ballot notice immediately.
Postal workers have been marched to the frontline. They must not be demobilised without a clear victory.
This is the best chance for years to deal with all the issues together that are affecting postal workers.
The strike campaign was already well advanced in many areas. That work must not be thrown away.