CWU union leaders were set to issue formal notice of a national strike ballot this week, although last minute talks with management were happening as Socialist Worker went to press.
A huge battle is in prospect, with far reaching political as well as industrial implications.
Management’s recent concessions, designed to avoid a strike, have been exposed as sugar to sweeten a very bitter pill.
Although bosses have been forced to back off from imposing a pay deal, they have failed to move on other key issues and even unveiled new attacks.
Royal Mail chairman Allan Leighton has shifted from his initial arrogant insistence that workers must just accept the pay deal the business wants. He has conceded that the 2.9 percent settlement will now flow through to all allowances, including London weighting.
However, the additional money is from July, not April.
More money will also be available under the agreement in addition to the 1 percent that is already earned - although the whole efficiency package depends on job losses.
If this was the entire deal, the union’s postal executive might well have accepted it.
But, having dropped one set of diktats, Royal Mail have unveiled new ones. They want to sweep away the present payments for door to door (adverts delivered alongside the post).
By September management want to remove the current restraints on the numbers of door to door items delivered a week with no extra cash for delivery workers.
So what will happen to the £30 or £40 a week that many get from the current agreement?
Bosses are also refusing to negotiate genuine terms of reference for the introduction of new walk sequencing technology. These machines could potentially destroy thousands of jobs. Other issues are also holding up a deal.
- Vacancies: Management will give a guarantee that present full time jobs won’t go part time. But they won’t guarantee that when full time vacancies arise that they will not automatically revert them into part time hours.
- Pensions: There may be extra cash for the pension fund, but no guarantee that contribution rates and pension age will stay as it is over the coming years.
- Attendance procedure: Management want a new system introduced immediately, and they will no doubt try to make it easier to sack people. This is completely unagreed and no details have been given.
And there are other questions such as a shorter working week, reaching the average British wage, the plans for 40,000 job losses, outsourcing and teamworking.
Last week the union’s national officers were wrong to draw back from issuing the strike ballot. There must be no more dithering.
It will be a disaster if the vote is postponed or cancelled without a clear victory.
Bosses and the government will unleash a big propaganda offensive against postal workers and their union.
There have been thinly veiled threats that the government money which has been earmarked for new investment in the post will be withdrawn unless the latest package of “efficiencies” gets pushed through.
The CWU is one of the best organised unions in Britain. A victory will be a boost to everyone.
The campaign for a big yes vote for strikes has made a good start with vigorous activities in most areas and a good response from workers.
Now there must be leaflets, stickers, posters and e-mails explaining that the union itself and the future of every worker is at stake. But the most important campaigning tool is face to face discussion, gate meetings and section meetings.
These must happen everywhere. If the CWU were to lose it would not just mean that national agreements would be torn up, it would also mean the union stripped of influence at local level.
The campaign has brought 136,000 workers across Britain together and prepared them to go into battle. That strength must now be turned into action.