Royal Mail management in London have started to make small concessions to postal workers, agreeing in some units to “re-sign” jobs — that is, to allow workers to choose which tasks to sign up to. Previously management had been unilaterally allocating duties.
This is a real concession, and marks a change from London management taking advantage of the Interim Agreement, and the stopping of the strike, to continue ferocious assaults on workers uninhibited. It appears that management reacting to pressure of tougher talk from the CWU, and a rebuke to Royal Mail management by ACAS.
However, Royal Mail have not shifted in their general position on the future of the postal service. They are still insisting on large-scale job cuts and re-structuring in the future.
They know they can afford to make a lot more concessions on local disputes and unilateral changes, because since the strikes were called off, they have had an upper hand on the question of the longer-term future of the post.
On 20 November the London Divisional Committee of the CWU called on the Postal Executive to reinstate strike action. The LDC made the call under pressure from members furious at continued management attacks. However the call was not directly the product of an independent rank-and-file initiative.
As one London postal worker told Solidarity, “They [the LDC] recognised that in London they would have to call for strikes or risk being very unpopular with membership, in a very direct way”. The call prompted Billy Hayes to make a statement a few days later effectively saying he would want to see the strikes restarted if management did not make any concessions.
The real but limited concessions that management appear to be making in London seem to serve the purpose of taking the pressure off the Postal Executive to call fresh strikes; and to give Royal Mail bosses more leverage in demanding the union concede job cuts.
Postal workers cannot rely on winning vague “tough talk” by the bureaucracy. Nor can they cannot rely on wildcat local strike action to deliver victory on a national level. Postal workers need a rank-and-file organisation in their union. The first step to creating a politically independent rank-and-file platform is for reps and activists at the shop-floor level who oppose the leadership’s undemocratic, social-partnership approach, to start meeting and publishing a postal workers’ bulletin.