POSTAL WORKERS across Britain will start voting in a strike ballot over pay in two weeks time. At the same time a separate ballot begins in the capital over London weighting. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) postal executive voted to call the ballots last week. Their decision is the result of huge pressure from below. Postal workers are fed up with grafting harder and harder for a pathetically small pay packet and they have told their union they want action.
They have also forced their union leaders to talk about opposition to the bosses’ plans for 30,000 redundancies. Terry Harrison, a sorting worker in Leicester, says, ‘Management are always on your back. It’s relentless and it’s getting worse as management are cutting tens of thousands of jobs.’
Mike, a delivery worker in east London, says, ‘We’re always being told that management and workers are on the same side. But the top managers are on mega-salaries while the people who actually do the job are on mini-pay.’ The feeling for action exists all over Britain. But it has been organised most directly in London and the south east of England.
From this area over 200 CWU reps met to discuss how to fight over pay last week. They represent the shop floor, coming directly from Royal Mail sorting, delivery and driving workers, Counters workers and Parcelforce workers. The mood was firm. If the national executive had not guaranteed a strike ballot the call would have gone out from the reps’ meeting for an unofficial strike-and the vast majority of 30,000 postal workers across the capital would have stopped.
London divisional rep Norman Candy told the meeting, ‘We’re talking here about London weighting. But of course national pay is just as important a question. It’s no good getting advances on weighting if the basic pay is stagnant. The feeling in London has worried management. They have improved the original offer of a £100 rise in London weighting to a £300 rise. That’s still a long way short, but it shows they can be moved. Now we need big yes majorities in both London votes-the national ballot and the London ballot.’ The high cost of living in the capital makes the pay question particularly urgent.
The income of London post office workers should have increased by 40 percent in the last five years just to maintain its value. It has only increased by 27 percent. Jane Loftus, a member of the CWU national executive, told Socialist Worker, ‘We need to win these ballots and then push for £300 a week now.
‘We have to take on the question of winning a significant rise without strings or job losses.’ It’s good the ballots are to be called but postal workers remember bitterly the last pay campaign.
Then they voted for strikes but union leaders failed to call action and persuaded workers to accept a bad deal. This time workers must pressure the leadership to fight hard. Activists should be strengthening their networks now to win the ballots and stop any settlement short of what is needed.
ROYAL MAIL management were so terrified by the possibility of an unofficial strike in London they asked CWU general secretary Billy Hayes to repudiate the action under the anti-union laws-even before it had happened! Some bosses even tried to prevent reps going to last week’s ‘subversive’ reps’ meeting.
Management then spent thousands of pounds buying hundreds of protective shoes in case bosses had to get off their bums and pound the pavements in scabbing operations. London divisional rep Norman Candy told the meeting, ‘The Post Office chairman Allan Leighton tries to come over as ‘one of the lads’. But he’s not on our side. He’s on the board of Dyson, which closed all its British plants and moved production to Indonesia to cut costs. He’s not a friend of the people-he’s a friend of his bank balance.’
Postal workers across Britain get just £261.93 for a 42-hour week. Bosses offered a 4.5 percent rise in wages over 18 months. The deal includes various bribes and bonuses on top but ultimately it relies on mass job losses, hitting near-impossible productivity targets and worse conditions. Royal Mail workers across Britain start voting on 21 August. The vote ends on 11 September.
London postal workers will also hold a separate ballot on the same timetable over London weighting.
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