Score draw in London postal dispute

Submitted by AWL on 6 July, 2011 - 2:57

London postal workers have scored a partial, but perhaps ultimately pyrrhic, victory in their battles against closures and job losses at three Royal Mail workplaces in the capital (the mail centres at Twelvetrees in Bow and the Nine Elms centre in south London and the delivery centre at Rathbone Place).

Following a vote for strike action, which passed by a resounding majority, the Communication Workers' Union held off naming strike dates in order to enter into new negotiations with Royal Mail management. The deal they have reached lifts the threat of compulsory redundancies and secures some new benefits for workers who will be transferred to other sites in outer London (such as transport provision) but leaves the bosses' closure plan intact. While the concession won from management on the issue of job losses is real, the long-term impact of the closure of some of London's best-organised Royal Mail workplace will be heavy for both postal workers and service users.

The dispute followed a pattern typical of the big disputes the CWU has conducted recently - that is, industrial action (or the threat of it) was used to win further negotiations rather than to win any specific, concrete demands. If the union had actually organised strike action, or even named a date for it, it could've negotiated from a position of greatly increased strength. The fact that the final deal was secured by full-time negotiators and not even voted on by rank-and-file postal workers is also problematic.

Workers relocated from the sites due to close will have to work hard to rebuild and strengthen organisation in their new workplaces. That the threat of a strike forced management to back down on its job cuts threat is significant, but the balance sheet of the dispute shows that rank-and-file activists in the CWU have a lot of work to do to make sure the next dispute ends more straightforwardly in a win for the workers.

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