Royal Mail union leaders have agreed to a “de-escalation of tensions” in the fight over pay and jobs—even though bosses have promised them nothing but talks. In a joint statement released last Friday, CWU union leaders and Royal Mail bosses committed to an “intensive period of negotiations” until Tuesday of next week.
The union essentially agreed not to campaign to build those strikes until Tuesday of next week at the earliest. It came just days after they cancelled two other strike days, which had been planned for Saturday of this week and Monday of next week. And it was less than a week after bosses published an offer that union leaders themselves said would amount to signing a “surrender document.”
Royal Mail bosses want workers to accept sweeping attacks on their working lives in return for a wage increase that amounts to a massive real terms pay cut. Workers have been offered a 7 percent rise over two years, plus a lump sum payment of 2 percent this year.
And it would be paid only if there were worse terms on Sunday working, start times and flexible working. Bosses also want to tear up years’ worth of protections, slash jobs, and bring new starters in on worse terms and conditions.
CWU union leaders called new strikes for Thursday 24 and Friday 25 November, and Wednesday 30 November and Thursday 1 December. But that means there will have been more than a month without action—and that’s if those strikes go ahead.
Many CWU members reacted to the announcement made in a live video broadcast with anger and confusion. The CWU’s head of communications Chris Webb had to admit that “loads of members” were demanding the union reinstate the two cancelled strike days.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward made worrying signals that union leaders wanted to turn away from strikes. He said he wanted to “change the dynamics of the dispute”. He then revealed the joint statement in a further announcement. Ward said the statement was a step forward. But bosses have taken none of their attacks off the table.
The statement only says these are “subject to further discussion.” Instead, they’ll want to use talks to wring concessions from union leaders. Workers have the busy run-up to Christmas—including online shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday—to hit Royal Mail hard. The best way to do that is to call longer strikes, with everyone out together, immediately.
But it’s only a change of language
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