The Communication Workers Union is now balloting its postal members on industrial action over the Royal Mail pay offer. The pay offer, says the union, threatens thousands of jobs. A postal worker gives an overview of the issues.
The tough stance taken by the CWU Postal Executive is welcome. But rank and file postal workers have been left confused as to what the union's strategy is on the "Major Change" issues attached to the bosses' pay offer, which threaten up to 30,000 jobs.
Part of the problem is that the newly elected Deputy General Secretary Dave Ward was responsible for negotiating the "Tailored Delivery System"-an agreement on deliveries which, if implemented, would result in up to 15,000 job losses. Meanwhile, negotiations over the Mail Centre and Transport Reviews, in which Royal Mail are targetting extra job losses in the processing and distribution functions, appear to be being conducted in secret. This has led to suspicions that plans are afoot to shut down "commercially unviable" Mail Centres.
There is further confusion over exactly what the union is demanding on pay and what link this will have with "Major Change". According to Pete Keenlyside, a candidate for Ward's old job of Outdoor Secretary: "There are several problems with what's going on now. The major one is that although we know what has been rejected, we have no idea of what our aim is and therefore what an acceptable offer would be. 4.5% over 18 months is not enough but what about 6%? 7%? 30,000 job cuts are not acceptable but 20,000? After all, Dave Ward agreed 15,000 in TDS. It was my branch that opposed that. So we know what we are fighting against but haven't a clue what we are fighting for. Not a good position to go into battle on."
Indeed, management have exploited the confusion. In the most recent letter to staff, Royal Mail boss Allan Leighton says that Royal Mail's offer is "based on the changes the union EC themselves recommended to conference back in June and all we've done since is simplify the so-called 'strings' and add some more cash!"
There are several key tasks for postal CWU reps now. One is to maximise the Yes vote for industrial action. Alongside this we should be putting motions through our branches demanding that the Postal Executive put Royal Mail's "Major Change" proposals out to ballot-with a recommendation to reject. We need to be building the campaign to elect Pete Keenlyside as Outdoor Secretary based on the fact that Pete is the only candidate in the election that will challenge and has challenged Royal Mail's job cutting agenda.
However, the key to winning the fight for better pay without job cuts is building a rank and file organisation within the union that is not subject to the demands of highly paid bureaucrats at CWU headquarters.