Articles  •  Britain

CWU/Royal Mail: 78 per cent of postal workers vote to strike

16 October 2013
16 October 2013 – by a CWU postal rep
It was announced this afternoon that postal workers have voted four to one for a strike to defend their wages, conditions and jobs in a newly privatised Royal Mail. The postal Communication Workers Union (CWU) has announced the first strike date for the 4 November.
The 78 per cent vote (on a 63 per cent turnout) by members of the postal CWU union is all the more impressive given the weeks of intense pro-privatisation and anti-strike propaganda by Royal Mail bosses, government ministers and the media.
The message is clear to Royal Mail bosses, led by CEO Moya Green. Workers have rejected their weak offer and no wonder. In return for a below-inflation pay deal that protects terms and conditions for three years, postal bosses will clean out the pension fund, guaranteeing future cuts or even its closure. This swindle just puts money in one pocket today and takes it out of the other tomorrow.
The deal would still mean total flexibility, a huge workload hike, and job cuts that will see a drive to sack full time workers for the smallest reason, but leave postal workers unable to legally fight back by banning strikes.
The company could be broken up by franchising and further sell-offs, while zero-hour contract workers are brought in to undermine pay and conditions. And that’s just while the deal’s three year “protection” period holds! After it’s over, the axe will really start to fall. Postal workers were right to reject it.
Behind the bluff, Royal Mail is scared of action
The truth is that the prospect of a sustained and determined strike really scares Royal Mail bosses and their financial advisers. That’s why Green stooped so low as to attempt to bribe postal workers with a pathetic and divisive £300 bonus for those who scab on the strike.
Of course, the union is dead right to challenge this discriminatory bonus in the courts – and branches should take action from below if it is implemented. But it shows the stakes are high; if Royal Mail win, they will use all kinds of underhand measures to undermine the union; if we can beat them, we will strengthen solidarity between workers.
Dave Ward says that the CWU is giving the company two weeks to agree an acceptable deal, and “the clock is ticking”.
What we want is a groundbreaking, long term, legally binding agreement that not only protects postal workers’ job security, pay and pensions – but will also determine the strategy, principles and values of how the Royal Mail Group will operate as a private entity.
This means there will be no further breakup of the company, no franchising of individual offices or delivery rounds, no introduction of a cheaper workforce on two-tier terms and conditions and no part time industry.
It will mean – regardless of who owns Royal Mail – this company will not be able to enter the race to the bottom and replicate the employment practices and service standards of their competitors.”
But Moya & Co won’t give us what our union is demanding – a ten year deal locking in the whole structure of Royal Mail and all aspects of our job – without a hard fight. So 4 November has to be the start of the action, with a rapid escalation – two days, four days, six days, up to all out so we win quickly.
The two and a half week wait to strike has to be the last such delay – even that’s giving Royal Mail bosses too much time to get prepared.
Postal workers should hold workplace meetings to set up strike committees, as the Leeds CWU branch has resolved. That way the union can harness the energy unleashed on the shopfloor to ensure solid support for a strike.
Workplace meetings can discuss the form the strike should take too, calling on the CWU leadership to escalate quickly so we bury Royal Mail bosses under a mountain of undelivered mail. It’s our strike. There’s many who are worried that Dave Ward and Billy Hayes will drag things out or settle too early for an inadequate deal, so let’s take control of it.
Let’s organise solidarity
The media will try to make us look greedy and feel isolated but in fact we have potentially more support than ever, given massive public opposition to privatisation. Millions are disgusted by the spectacle of the government selling off Royal Mail a billion pounds too cheaply to ensure its success and reward their fat cat friends and speculators in the City – that’s where the real greed is.
Moya Green has already hinted that there could be more stamp price hikes to squeeze postal service users in the near future. She is insisting that Royal Mail needs to be “smaller”, code for big job losses and radical restructuring, resulting in a reduced service for residential customers. Postal bosses are the ones damaging the service not us!
Let’s tap the public’s anger and hostility to the government, and not let media headlines and smears blunt it. The CWU can work with Peoples Assemblies, Trades Councils and anti-cuts groups to launch a solidarity movement and hardship fund to support escalated action, and coordinate with other unions in dispute such as the firefighters and teachers.
The TUC pledged in September to call a midweek day of strike action for the trade union movement – great, let’s call on them to do it. We should demand Labour backs us after all the millions the CWU has given them – and this year’s conference resolution to renationalize Royal Mail.
On that note, it is a shame that the CWU leaders did not set the strike date for 5 November day of action called by the People’s Assembly or coordinate it with other unions, like the teachers and firefighters. We could have had big demos in every locality and really raise public awareness about how this government is destroying public services.
This sectional approach, running the strike as if it was just “our business and nobody else’s”, is a mistake: the bigger the movement against the Tories and their LibDem hangers-on, the better for us.
A clear vote, now firm action
No doubt the Tories will claim that less than half of posties voted for strikes if you count the turnout. The massive media hype around privatisation and its “successful” float no doubt confused some workers and shrunk the turnout. The fact that our CWU tops let privatisation go through without a fight no doubt did some damage too.
However in the face of a tsunami of propaganda, activists should be proud they won a big “Yes” vote. Now we need to deepen our activity and workplace organisation to get a big turnout on 4 November, when it will become crystal clear that postal workers support our union and are committed to fight for our jobs.
Moya & Co. will almost certainly table another pre-planned “better” deal in the coming days, to pressure CWU leaders into delaying action, possibly even balloting us on a new deal. CWU members will have to watch Dave Ward, Billy Hayes and the rest of the Postal Executive like hawks to ensure they don’t call the action off or drag it out over weeks or months.
Royal Mail bosses will try to distract us and further delay things, but whatever they “offer” in the next two and a half weeks will be nowhere near what we need and much less than we can win if we strike. Let’s not drag it out anymore; let’s get striking.
Strikes – not rolling, not regional, not for isolated days, but escalating swiftly with the threat of an indefinite stoppage at the end – are what we should be focusing on. They can achieve far more, far more quickly than any boycott of rival companies’ mail, which the CWU leaders are now talking about.
We all know this is The Big One. Our whole future is at stake, but the ballot result proves that postal workers know the score and are up for a fight. If members can take control of the action, coordinate with other workers and build a massive solidarity movement around us, we can beat Royal Mail and this rotten, weak coalition government that stands behind them.
For more detailed coverage, read Royal Mail privatised: postal workers should vote Yes and prepare to fight
The ballot result in full was:
Turnout: 63% (71,913)
Yes votes: 78% (56,339)
No votes: 22% (15,624)
Read the CWU’s press release here
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