This page will be updated with articles and reports of interest to postal workers and members of the Communication Workers Union.
As we update this page, there will be a mixture of current and past articles from our website, our newspaper 'the Socialist' and various leaflets and bulletins that we have distributed. Comments from readers, particularly postal workers are encouraged.
Strike action to defend Royal Mail jobs (23.06.11)
A Coventry postal worker
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) recently announced its intention to hold a national strike ballot if any postal worker, anywhere in the country, is made compulsorily redundant. This is to be welcomed as Royal Mail, under the stewardship of new boss Moya Greene, seems intent on ripping up the agreement it signed up to just a year ago.
This new business plan includes the closure of half of the mail centres around the country, which will lead to compulsory redundancies. This is contrary to last year's agreement. And it won't end with mail centre closures.
CWU members can learn from the stand of the four unions taking action on 30 June. We need to be unified in action against the planned attacks on all our jobs. And we need our union leaders to begin to coordinate action with other unions whose members face attacks on their jobs, pay, conditions and the services they provide.
We face a further attack on our pensions if Royal Mail is privatised. We were shunted onto an inferior pension scheme two years ago and the CWU leaders accepted it. This was unforgivable. It's down to members to put pressure on the leadership to allow us to take action in order to defend ourselves from all attacks.
Report back on CWU Conference 2011 (17.06.11)
The Communications Workers Union (CWU) used to be built around two major employers, Royal Mail/Post office and in Telecoms, BT. Deregulation and privatisation have pushed the union into other sectors of the communications industry. But in all areas workers face an ever more vicious war against their jobs, pensions and conditions by employers.
The scale of the attacks on Postal and Telecoms workers was put alongside the wider government attacks on public services, wages, jobs and pensions and conference made it clear that ‘it was time the TUC did something different in this country’. They called unanimously for a 24 hour general strike and on the CWU to participate in local anti cuts bodies.
The Postal conference, in three emergency motions, attempted ‘to draw a line in the sand’ to warn bosses and government over Royal Mail (RM) privatisation, pensions cuts and job losses. It is clear Royal Mail has decided it cannot deliver its business plan by sticking to agreements with the CWU. It is breaking modernisation agreements and imposing compulsory redundancies.
Three London Mail centres voted overwhelmingly for industrial action and this dispute could begin soon and very quickly become a national dispute as London will need the support of the rest of the CWU and other mail centres. The union know it will be a hard job to convince all members to fight. Confidence has fallen following the loss of the final salary pension scheme 2 years ago and the wave of closures and job losses following the ‘Business Modernisation Agreement’ (See Postman’s article Socialist issue 671). But if the union and the rights it has secured for workers are not to be crushed then it is vital that CWU members join together to fight this attack.
In the industrial dispute under the Labour government the union felt they were being effectively derecognised as management set up the industry for privatisation. In seeking to maintain full time jobs in the face of this onslaught they sought ‘a shared vision of modernisation’. With privatisation back on the agenda and bosses on the attack, they are seeking to ‘embed the Union’ in the company before a private firm takes over. Emergency motions to fight back were carried overwhelmingly or unanimously, although references by postal general secretary Dave Ward to ‘industrial democracy’ as part of this ‘embedding’, raised eyebrows amongst delegates. Royal Mail privatisation threatens the entire postal network and conference was scathing of New Labours’ previous attempt to privatise RM and of it allowing cherry-picking of profitable postal services. Faced with the new Tory plans ‘Labour should threaten to renationalise’ to keep the private sharks at bay said Dave Wilshere of Bristol but few had any hope that would happen.
In an increasingly hostile and difficult environment delegates held little hope of political allies. In the general conference they gave a rousing response to a stirring speech from Lenny Shail of Coventry who exposed how few Labour MP’s had backed John McDonnell’s trade union rights bill or opposed pension indexation changes from RPI to CPI. But the issue of how the union strengthens its’ political representation remained unaddressed, other than a few unenthusiastic hopes that Labour may change. And this was contradicted when the executive reported concessions won from the Tories on their privatisation bill which sounded eerily like previous reports on concessions from Labour governments. The dominant feeling was a recognition that the union will have to rely on its own industrial strength.
CWU Telecoms conference reflected the anger of members in the industry. Motions calling for changes to the attendance agreements that have been used to invoke the use of compulsory overtime were carried. Motions calling for pension increases to be linked to RPI and for changes to the parking at home agreements which are being used to force members to work extra hours on their daily shifts were carried.
The misnamed “Left Activists Network” led executive, showed its real colours in opposing a motion calling for the pay settlement for next year to attempt to rectify the losses incurred by members in the recent 3 year pay deal. Opposition to this motion gave a glimpse of how divorced from the membership they have become.
Conference overwhelmingly supported a motion at the end of conference calling for a campaign of opposition including industrial action on the issue of performance management which is being used to manage people out of the business. The executive opposed the motion once again demonstrating their failure to grasp what is happening in the workplaces.
Members were enthused by this victory and left the conference determined to ensure that the Telecoms executive leads a national campaign against bullying in the workplace.
Delegates expressed their anger at the Left Activists Network Group announcing its election slate before structural changes had been agreed by conference. Once again this was seen as extremely arrogant. The move to bi-ennial elections was opposed by the Broad Left as removing an element of accountability. Once again the Left Activists Network (LAN) supported this. Branches will need to be vigilant in keeping pressure on the executive to carry out conference policy.
New members who attended the conference for the first time were enthused by the democratic debates at the Broad Left meetings and new members were recruited to the BL as branches have become more aware of the failings of the current executive and the need to organise and fight back.
Reproduced below is the text from our conference bulletin
Royal Mail faces the most determined attempt so far at privatisation and the response of the union leadership needs to be stepped up. Their strategy of lobbying coalition MPs in marginal seats has been a total failure.
NOT ONE LOBBIED MP HAS SAID THEY WILL VOTE AGAINST PRIVATISATION.
The Executive must organise to take industrial action if the government don’t halt their privatisation plans!
JOBS & CLOSURES
NATIONAL ACTION NEEDED: The unofficial action in Sandhills and Brunswick show that workers are prepared to fight to defend jobs and conditions. London is balloting at this moment.
As Royal Mail drive a coach and horses through our agreements it cannot be left to individual offices to protect national agreements.
National action is required to support those facing job cuts and the threat of compulsory redundancy and the leadership should be working for that.
Motion 35 and 36 to the Postal Conference call for action and should be supported overwhelmingly.
On the Telecoms side, as Socialist Party members predicted, the ‘ground breaking’ three year pay deal agreed last year has turned into a pay cut as inflation climbs above the 3% pay rise.
BT reported a 71% increase in profits on May 12. The union should be demanding our members’ share of that and start mobilising for industrial action if BT doesn’t pay up.
Telecoms workers face harassment in the workplace wrapped up in performance management processes which are basically tools to manage people out of the business along with being turned into slaves by the imposition of compulsory overtime.
Motions to end these practices should be supported.
STOP THE PENSIONS ROBBERY
Uprating pensions by the Consumer Price Index rather than the Retail Price Index will mean an increase in contributions and a reduction of the pension by at least 1% EVERY year.
Coupled with the attacks on BT pensions the union has already accepted we will now pay more for lower pensions and have a longer working life to boot!
The union should mobilise a campaign against this Great Pensions Robbery and force our employers to use their vast profits to maintain our pensions
A POLITICAL VOICE MUST BE REBUILT
One thing that holds back the union from playing a full role in defending our members both as workers and service users is its continuing support for the Labour Party. Labour started privatisation of Royal Mail.
Labour councils have carried out cuts equally as vicious as Tory councils yet our union still tell us to vote for a party that will butcher our public services. A cut is a cut whether it’s a Labour cut or a Tory cut.
Telling our members to wait until 2015 and vote for a party that will cut more slowly is not good enough!
The focus from last years conference was to seek a left leader of Labour in John McDonnell. But in modern Labour there was no space for a socialist like John. Less than 20 Labour MP’s could be found to back him in even opposing the Tory pensions changes from RPI to CPI !! When he moved his modest trade union rights bill less than 90 MP’s supported him, some Libs and tories
We should aid the building of a party that represents working people now!
· Defend pay and conditions · Oppose job cuts
· Stop the Pensions Robbery · Oppose all public spending cuts
· For a fighting CWU leadership · Build a new workers’ party