By CWU activists
DESPERATE ROYAL Mail bosses have threatened to use the courts to call off CWU strikes. This would have stopped the strike for six weeks or even overturned the ballots.
CWU leaders argued that two allegations could be upheld by a judge, and cancelled two weeks of rolling strikes, replacing them with two all-out 24 hour strikes on 12 and 14 November—the earliest possible date permitted by the two week notice period.
Management will be gloating and many workers dismayed, but this is the reality of the anti-union laws. There are so many petty regulations that even the smallest failure means a company can go running to court screaming for an injunction. In this case the CWU failed get the grading right of some workers in a handful of offices; after a herculean effort to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ the union had not managed to keep up with Royal Mail’s operational changes.
Technically every postal worker will be striking for just as many days as before, since rolling strikes call different functions out on different days, but these were billed as an escalation due to the extra disruption involved for the mail. So now there is an extra week without action during the crucial pre-Christmas period, when postal workers are at their strongest.
Bosses dig in
CWU leaders met with Royal Mail negotiators at arbitration service ACAS for the first time on 25 October. Even sulking CEO Simon Thompson dropped in for the first few days. But workers should not have any illusions. Only a week back Thompson was tweeting that there was ‘less than a 1% chance’ of a deal with the CWU!
On the shop floor the company is pressing ahead with the very policies that the strike is meant to oppose, from electronic signing in to using PDAs for performance and conduct issues.
The injunction threat is just the icing on the cake, and has probably been planned for weeks to hit November’s escalation.
If workers were only fighting a corporate nonentity like Thompson then they would have won long ago. But he has been able to sabotage negotiations, because behind him stands the billionaire Kretinsky, the biggest shareholder, with his plans to break up the company.
The only way to get a deal that defends pay, terms and conditions—or possibly any deal at all, given the employers’ intransigence—is to escalate the fight sharply now. The rolling strikes for the second half of November are threatened by the injunction. This tactic was a step up, but as well as forcing workers in different functions to cross each others’ picket lines, it is unlikely to win. Postal workers should throw all their strength into the balance for November and December, going quickly to all-out by Black Friday, to bring management to its knees.
Many members will say they can’t afford that. That’s why the CWU needs to boost the strike fund fast. The CWU should call an emergency meeting for trade unions and trades councils, setting up solidarity committees to get the whole movement raising funds and solidarity for us and others on strike like the RMT. That builds our strike and the movement at the same time.
Injunctions stopped strikes in 2007 and 2019 with disastrous results. Yet union leaders continue to abide by them, no matter how undemocratic or damaging.
Only grassroots organisation can overcome this, with workers organised and prepared to act from below, with strikes committees and local rank and file committees, that can take action when the leaders won’t act or prepare to sell short the struggle. Ultimately, that is the only way to get round Royal Mail’s injunction blackmail, while insisting on escalation and democratic control of the strike in the here and now.