By Nick Clark
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Stand by your post as Royal Mail workers escalate pay fight

This article is over 1 years, 4 months old
The pressure is back on Royal Mail as new strike dates promise nine strike days for each Royal Mail worker
Issue 2825
Royalmail picket line with strikers in pink CWU union high visibility vests, waving pink union flags and someone dressed up as postman pat

Lively Royal Mail picket line outside Whitechapel, London, office in August (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Royal Mail workers have announced 19 more strikes throughout October, November and December in their fights over pay and conditions.

The members of the CWU union plan three national strikes on 13, 20 and 25 October. Then a rolling campaign of functional action—strikes in different sections of Royal Mail—aims at causing disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

It is set to hit online shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday and marks an escalation in a campaign that has already seen three days of national strikes.

CWU divisional rep Mark Dolan told Socialist Worker that workers were up for escalation. “It’s exactly the response that members wanted,” Mark said. “All our reps have reported that our members are solidly behind the dispute.”

He added that the action will “cause carnage.” “The pressure is back on Royal Mail now,” he said. “They may cry crocodile tears about the business they’ll lose. But there is no other company that will be able to take on our volume of work at Christmas.”

The announcement came as cleaners, engineers and related admin workers employed by Royal Mail’s facilities section also voted to strike. 

Royal Mail workers are fighting after bosses forced a 2 percent pay increase on them earlier this year—a massive real terms pay cut. But their battle has increasingly also become a fight to defend the future of their jobs as bosses push through a major assault on their working conditions.

In a sudden move last week, Royal Mail bosses announced plans to tear up workers’ conditions and break the power of the union. Behind this is a plan to smash up Royal Mail and turn it into a parcels company similar to Amazon or DPD, with “gig economy” style working conditions.

The CWU also warns that bosses have secret plans to sell off the company to investment firm Vesa, with plans to break it up and run down its letters delivery services.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said, “This is the most serious dispute that we’ve ever been involved in. It’s a dispute where the company are attacking our members’ terms and conditions like never before.

He said the plans were meant to “get rid of the union so they can attack the workers even more, break up the company and make more money for themselves. We’re not going to accept that under any circumstances.”

Ward said Royal Mail chief executive Simon Thompson could avoid the strikes “by getting round the table.” But bosses have promised talks before—only to push ahead with further assaults as they did last week.

Bosses might respond by trying to force through changes to terms and conditions in local workplaces. Workers should get ready to resist if they do. And the union should support anyone who refuses to cross a picket line during the functional action.

Workers can win if they keep striking and escalating until bosses drop their plans and give them a proper pay rise.


Post Office dispute

Post Office workers struck on Wednesday in a long running battle over pay. It is the sixth day of strikes by the CWU union members since March against a real terms pay cut.

Since then, action has forced bosses to change their offer to a 5 percent increase—up from 2 percent. But, as the CWU says, “this is still some considerable way behind current inflation levels.”

CWU national officer Andy Furey said, “While the movement on pay achieved by our members’ five solid strikes is a step in the right direction – our members are suffering from the extreme cost of living with RPI inflation of 12.3 per cent.”

Six months after the first ballot, anti-union laws say the CWU must ballot its members again if they want to continue striking—which Furey said the union may do.

The action has pushed bosses to move—but the pattern of one day strikes followed by weeks of negotiations has produced only slight improvements. More sustained action can win a proper pay rise in line with inflation.


Stamp the date in your diary

October: all 115,000 Royal Mail workers

  • Thu 13 October
  • Thu 20 October (also the day of a scheduled strike by 40,000 workers in BT and Openreach)
  • Tue 25 October

November: strikes section by section EXCEPT for Mon 28 November (Cyber Monday) when everyone is out

  • Wed 2 Nov: Network (mainly drivers)
  • Thu 3 Nov: Processing (mainly mail centres), distribution and Manual Data Entry Centres (Mdec)
  • Fri 4 Nov: Deliveries
  • Tue 8 Nov: Network (mainly drivers)
  • Wed 9 Nov: Processing (mail centres), distribution and Manual Data Entry Centres (Mdec)
  • Thu 10 Nov: Deliveries
  • Mon 14 Nov: Network (mainly drivers)
  • Tue 15 Nov: Processing (mail centres), distribution and Manual Data Entry Centres (Mdec)
  • Wed 16 Nov: Deliveries
  • Wed 23 Nov: Network (mainly drivers)
  • Thu 24 Nov: Processing (mail centres), distribution and Manual Data Entry Centres (Mdec)
  • Fri 25 Nov: Deliveries
  • Mon 28 Nov: (Cyber Monday): All Royal Mail workers
  • Wed 30 Nov: Network (mainly drivers)

December: 

  • Thu 1 Dec: Processing (mail centres), distribution and Manual Data Entry Centres (Mdec)
  • Fri 2 Dec: Deliveries.

The 37 mail centres (divided into Royal Mail regions) are:

  • East: Chelmsford, Norwich, Nottingham, Peterborough, Romford, Sheffield, South Midlands (Northampton)
  • West: Birmingham, Chester, Manchester, North West Midlands (Wolverhampton), Preston, Warrington
  • South East: Croydon, Gatwick (Crawley), Greenford, Home Counties North (Hemel Hempstead), Jubilee (Hounslow), Medway (Rochester), London Central (Mount Pleasant)
  • South West: Bristol, Cardiff, Dorset (Poole), Exeter, Plymouth, Southampton, Swansea, Swindon, Truro
  • North: Aberdeen, Inverness, Carlisle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Northern Ireland (Newtownabbey), Tyneside/Newcastle (Gateshead)

Overall, each worker will be out for nine days, four as part of a national strike of all Royal Mail workers, five with just their function out.

The CWU says, “Parcelforce, Fleet and Engineers will be aligned to the most appropriate functional dates following consultation between the Officers and the Senior Reps.”

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