The CWU union's ballot of postal workers on national strike action over job cuts started on 17 September, and will finish on 8 October. We are expecting a very big yes vote in London. It could be closer nationally, but I'd still expect a yes majority.
During the campaign of local strikes, the union has been having reasonably regular national "briefing" meetings, every few weeks or so, with a couple of representatives from every branch round the country.
These are not decision-making meetings, but at the last one there was criticism of the union's slowness to move from local to national action, and of suggestions that local action might be stopped during the national ballot.
The leadership has moved on those points. Most postal workers in London will be striking on Wednesday 23 September, and again on Tuesday 29 September, in order to lobby Labour Party conference in Brighton.
The union's claim is:
- A new job security agreement... Sustainable full-time jobs, no compulsory redundancies..
- Higher pay, shorter working week, better attendance patterns...
- Workload based on fair and objective measurement... Staff and CWU having a genuine say over how the job should be done.
The union demands are not clear in detail. What worries me is that, assuming we get a yes vote in the national ballot, the union leadership could use to make a shoddy deal.
At the beginning of the strike action Royal Mail bosses may have thought they they could just face the union down without conceding anything. Despite all the intimidation, however, the strikes have been solid.
I think the bosses will probably be willing to do a shoddy deal where they promise no unilateral action in future on cutting jobs and increasing workload, and I fear the union leadership may be willing to settle for that. What the members want is the reversal of the unilateral action that has been taken already.
We've had 12 or 13 days of strike action in London now, which is more than in 2007 or in 1996. The members are solid. There are not many people saying that it is a lost cause; instead, they are fed up that the union has not moved more quickly to national action. There is a small minority ready to move on to all-out indefinite strike action.