Royal Mail workers across Britain will start a national strike ballot soon, unless there is a last minute climbdown by management.
On Monday the CWU union is expected to give notice for the ballot to begin. If workers vote yes, strikes could begin in August.
At stake is the entire future of the union and its ability to negotiate over central work issues such as jobs, pay and conditions.
The specific is Royal Mail’s decision to impose a pay rise of just 2.4 percent for this year. The real question is whether the union, one of the best organised in Britain, will be sidelined as bosses seek to ram through major changes and campaign for privatisation.
Union branches are already well into the ballot campaign – even before it has been formally started.
Dave Wilshire, branch secretary of Bristol and district CWU, told Socialist Worker, “By the end of this week we hoped that every unit in the city and the surrounding area will have had a meeting about the issues around the ballot.
“We go to the delivery offices and the mail centre offices and then call people outside during their breaks. Management can’t do anything abut that, because it’s people’s own time.
“In some places we have had close to 100 percent attendance and in most offices the response has been very good. We know there are a couple of places where more work is needed, and we will be looking at those places.
“When we hold the meetings we quickly move on from the specifics of the pay deal to explain that this is really about the future of our industry and of having a chance to shape that future.
“It’s about jobs and dignity in the workplace. Management has plans to transform this industry along the lines of the ‘Dutch model’.
“This means destroying most full-time jobs and flooding in part-timers who are paid just over the minimum wage. It means breaking up traditional work units and having people deliver from little depots or even garages.
“When we tell people about this prospect they are very concerned and get behind our calls for a public service with decent terms and conditions.
“We also have stickers – in different colours depending on which football team people prefer! They say ‘I’m supporting the CWU vision, are you?’ They are very popular, although not with managers who see their offices full of them.
“We’re putting in leaflets regularly to back up the message on the gates. This is the sort of activity we will continue up to the vote and which we will try to make sure is carried out everywhere – from the big mail centre to the smallest delivery office.”
This could be a crucial battle, not just for postal workers but for all trade unionists.
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