WHEN THE CWU postal union finally released the text of its deal with Royal Mail after months of negotiations, it immediately became clear union leaders had conceded to most of Royal Mail’s demands.
The members’ response was overwhelmingly negative. Even as the union’s media team was uploading video after video trying to spin the deal almost as a victory, postal workers were quoting from the deal, putting up screen grabs of the worst bits, and vowing to vote against it.
After three ballots, members losing 18 days of pay on strike days, and over 400 reps and members suspended or dismissed, the deal is a massive set back in terms of pay, terms and conditions. Victimised reps and members have not been reinstated by this wretched deal. Instead, an “independent” judge, the anti-union Lord Falconer, will review the cases.
Fundamentally, it paves the way for a massive hike in workload, especially for workers in delivery offices, fails to guarantee job security, and undermines the union’s fighting strength. This is why we need a rank and file campaign to vote no.
Workers pay for change
The first two pages of the deal are all about Royal Mail’s dire straits and “turning the fortunes of the company around”. After bosses tanked the company’s finances last year, whilst giving themselves nearly three quarters of a billion pounds in dividends, bonuses and shares, the deal ensures workers pay for “business transformation”.
The deal accepts the pathetic 2% for last year, which workers have already been paid anyway, gives 6% this year and another 2% next year and a one-off £500 lump sum. Altogether, given still spiralling prices, that is a pay cut of more than 10% in real terms. Promises of 20% of any profits, and schemes to “incentivise” workers with payments for extra parcels delivered, rely on hiking our workload.
The deal falls particularly heavily on delivery staff and will extend the outdoor, physical work, driving many out of the job: seasonal hours that hike the working week by two hours in the busy Christmas period and plans to cut indoor work by 20-35 minutes and in addition look at 30 minute flexibility. Workers could finish up to 90 minutes later than at present, destroying family friendly hours that allow workers to pick up kids from school.
Cuts to sick pay and terms will also save Royal Mail a packet with statutory sick pay for the first 3-4 days after the first absence, and triggering a “stage” after fewer absences. This will be used to drive workers who get injuries out of the business, all on the cheap. Laughably, the deal with the usual spin links all these cuts to a “supportive plan to improve attendance”!
The CWU statement says “We have now secured guarantees that Royal Mail Group will
only use individual data in a supportive manner for coaching purposes.” But in the agreement it states “data will be used to understand workplace and individual performance in a fair, and consistent way” and can now be used in some serious conduct cases. In other words, given the fit-ups that have seen 400 suspended, whenever Royal Mail wants to victimise someone. Big brother has arrived.
From there, the guarantees only get flimsier. The deal only lasts until April 2025, but its commitments to no compulsory redundancies until then, and not to “introduce owner-drivers into the Royal Mail core USO operation” are not binding. With the huge number of unfilled vacancies in offices this is hardly a taxing requirement anyway.
Against CWU claims, Royal Mail only says that it “has no plans” to outsource, franchise, and rationalise mail centres, or set up a separate parcels company. New sweeping changes like “one big parcel company” or the new mega parcel centres will likely impact on Parcelforce, mail centres and most delivery offices.
The deal seems to accept Royal Mail’s imposed “new terms and conditions for new entrants” including compulsory Sunday working, which points to a two tier workforce and a step towards the gig economy.
Rank and file ‘no’ campaign
Workers should reject this deal and campaign for a no vote. The nurses did this last month, a bad pay deal was successfully rejected, and their strikes are back on again.
We should follow their example, with a campaign launched by members, reps, officials and branches that are against the deal, similarly to 2007 when a Vote No campaign was supported by a member of the Postal Executive Committee and organising meetings produced a bulletin that was distributed online and on the shopfloor. Reps and workers can contact their branches to demand a members’ meeting decides on any recommendation for or against the deal.
The alternative to a rotten deal means putting the strikes back on, this time with an effective plan to escalate to all out, and building solidarity committees to support us financially, as well as politically: now is the time to demand the renationalisation of Royal Mail. A no vote campaign could develop the forces for what the CWU has needed for a long time: a rank and file movement to bring the union under workers control, with recallability and a skilled workers wage for all officials, and strike committees built at the base to re-energise the union from below and prepare to fight and win.
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