After keeping the membership in the dark for months about negotiations with Royal Mail bosses, the CWU postal leadership has finally announced a deal with which is hopes to conclude the latest national dispute with management.
On the CWU website the leadership trumpets the deal as “bringing pay and job security for postal workers”. But, as a London postal worker told Solidarity, the deal actually lays the framework for further lay-offs:
“I had been told that it involved closure of 50% of mail centres, but no such figure is in there. The deal looks at the ways that such closures might be implemented, but there is no information about whether closures are taking place, or where, or how many. There are lots of words about ‘rationalisation’ which indicates they want to make cuts, but no information. Likewise, they indicate they want to cut jobs, but no figure on how many jobs to go.”
The deal offers no serious improvement on the pay front either: “The media are talking about a 7% pay increase over three years. But there was no pay increase last year, so it comes out at 7% over four years, which is even less.”
In a situation where inflation could rise rise rapidly over the coming years, a deal that locks the union into three years of extremely modest pay rises is a recipe for real-terms pay cuts for posties. The meagre “lump sum” which will be paid to postal workers in return for accepting the deal also has strings attached — which effectively mean accepting redundancies — and it will be spread out, again, over three years.
Under this deal, workers will receive different pay depending on which part of the service they work in. This new situation will help management drive wedges between different sections of the workforce.
The deal is bad on junk mail and deliveries too:
“At the moment for junk mail we get paid a certain amount per item. Very little really, but it can mount up if you do a heavily residential delivery round. That will be replaced by a payment of £20.60 per week for everyone in deliveries. But they are also removing the cap on how many junk items can be delivered a week.
“Also the ban on junk mail deliveries in the run-up to Christmas is going to be got rid of too. So if you were on a residential delivery round you will be worse off money-wise, and you could get slaughtered, workload-wise.”
Finally, the deal’s reduction in the working week is of just one hour, and it won't come in for another two years!
The deal contains little else of substance. In particular, it fails to address questions of private competitors and “downstream access” to mail. It also offers nothing on the question of Royal Mail's £10 billion pension deficit.
This deal is a scandal — it was cooked up behind the backs of the workers who made huge sacrifices to bring the bosses to the negotiating table, and it offers them less than nothing.
The national strike in the post in late 2009 was strong and powerful. Instead of organising a clear set of positive demands and a strong timetable for long-term action, the CWU leadership ran it into the ground.
The leadership has only been able to conclude such an insulting deal as this by stringing out negotiations over months, in secret.
The only good thing about it is that the union Executive did not vote unanimously to accept it (the CWU report says the vote was merely “overwhelmingly” in favour). Postal workers should do better than their leaders — and vote to reject in the ballot on the deal.