Socialist Worker

Postal workers: 'Vote no to this deal and fight for the future'

by Simon Furze, Leicester CWU member (personal capacity)
Issue No. 2012

Around 150 people joined a CWU union-led protest in Shrewsbury last weekend against the closure of the town centre post office.  (Pic: David Smith)

Around 150 people joined a CWU union-led protest in Shrewsbury last weekend against the closure of the town centre post office. (Pic: David Smith)

From Monday postal workers will all be voting on the proposed “Shaping our Future” pay and conditions agreement. If we vote yes we will be throwing away a great chance to hit back at our management and accepting a bad deal. It will, at best, postpone crucial battles to a time when we’ll be weaker and management will be stronger.

Our CWU union leaders say this is a “ground breaking” and “landmark” agreement. That’s an insult to our intelligence.

This dispute began in May when Royal Mail imposed a 2.4 percent pay deal. They have had to back off from that because we said we would ballot for strikes and had a brilliant campaign to build that vote.

Management were running scared, so they restarted talks.

But instead of an imposed 2.4 percent deal we have a 2.9 percent deal.

We will also be able to earn more under this year’s efficiency agreement - although as that means selling jobs for a few pounds extra many of us are not hugely impressed by that.

But what’s really significant about the deal is that it has backed off from a fight over key issues.

Royal Mail will still press ahead with demands for change, but, if the deal is accepted, we’ll no longer have the unity that was created during the strike ballot campaign.

The deal does not:

  • Give us any details of what payment system will come in when the restrictions on door to door (unaddressed advertising material) are removed in three months time.
  • Tell us under what detailed terms of reference walk sequencing technology will be trialed.
  • Rule out team working, the plan to let brown-nosing team leaders discipline groups of workers on behalf of management.
  • Protect seniority, the system whereby choice of work is assigned based on how long you’ve been working for the company. Management used to say this broke equality laws.

    They have dropped that pretence and just say these matters are a bosses’ prerogative.

  • Block management’s plans for a new attendance procedure, which will make it easier to sack people.
  • Say anything about a shorter working week or about us reaching British average pay.
  • Guarantee our pensions in the long term.
  • Rule out the privatising share scheme.

Every vote against this deal will be a shout of outrage against Royal Mail’s plans for mass job cuts, harder working and implementing policies without agreement.

There is also the question of what happened on 28 June. Royal Mail claims that on that day our CWU general secretary Billy Hayes shook hands on a deal to end the dispute and that this was communicated to “a government minister”.

If this is true the campaign to prepare for a strike ballot was continuing under false pretences and all the manoeuvres afterwards were a charade.

We need full disclosure about what happened, and postal executive members are right to demand this.

But we must also recognise that this would have been another occasion when the link to Labour worked against us.

Executive voice

A member of the CWU union’s postal executive told Socialist Worker, “The terms of the Shaping the Future deal are not bad and there are some good elements. But what’s disappointing is that it could have been much better.

“We built up a momentum and we should have used that over a wide range of issues.

“If we had gone ahead with the strike vote we would have got a great result which would have removed the memory of the failed strike ballot in 2003. This would have renewed the confidence of every local rep.

“In my view the reason we didn’t use our potential strength was political pressure. Labour didn’t want a strike and that was transmitted to the top of our union.

“We succumbed to that pressure. I know activists may be disappointed, but we have to keep the mood going and prepare for other fights to come.”

Postal workers at distribution centres are preparing to vote on strikes after management changed mail routing without agreement.

A strike ballot has begun at Carterton and Witney in Oxfordshire over management’s bullying.

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Article information

Sat 5 Aug 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2012
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