Postalworkers: vote yes for... better pay, no strings, a fighting union

Submitted by Anon on 10 September, 2003 - 1:20

By a postal worker

It is crucial that a massive "Yes" vote is recorded in the forthcoming ballot for industrial action over Royal Mail's dirty trick pay offer.
Of course Royal Mail boss Allan Leighton has claimed that a 4.5% pay rise over 18 months plus acceptance of massive job cuts is a "good deal". It's a great deal for Leighton and Co-the icing on the cake when you consider the £500,000 plus annual pay rates (plus bonuses worth up to £50,000 for one months work) that are being dished out to senior directors. It's also likely to be good deal for local managers who will be hoping a massive job cull amongst postal workers will help get them some more cash on top of the £2,000 lump sums that they have recently been awarded for "all your hard work over the 12 months… allowing us to exceed our financial targets" (letter from Allan Leighton and Co to managers).

That we should reject Leighton's agenda is obvious. What is now immediately necessary is to decide what our own agenda is. We cannot run a serious campaign on pay simply based on opposition to what we are being offered. Rank and file postal workers need to organise to discuss the pay campaign and what our demands should be. We need to build a rank and file organisation that is not subject to the demands of highly paid bureaucrats at the Communication Workers Union headquarters. Sooner or later we are going to have to say what it is we are fighting for. Let's make it sooner.

Whilst it is welcome that the CWU Postal Executive have taken a tough stance on pay, rank and file postal workers have been left confused as to what the union's strategy is on the "Major Change" issues 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 lose up to 15,000 jobs. Meanwhile, negotiations over the Mail Centre and Transport Reviews in which Royal Mail are targeting 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 confusion over exactly what the union is demanding on pay and what link this will have with "Major Change". The problem with what is going on 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.

Indeed, management have exploited the confusion. In the most recent letter to staff, 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 issues for postal workers now. One is to maximise the "Yes" vote for industrial action over pay. Alongside this motions should be put through our branches demanding that the Postal Executive put Royal Mail's "Major Change" proposals out to ballot-with a recommendation to reject.

Outdoor secretary election

In the election for CWU Postal Outdoor Secretary, Pete Keenleyside, the candidate backed by Solidarity, scored a respectable 20%. Bob Gibson, who was backed by the new Deputy General Secretary Dave Ward, won with 32% of the vote.

Unlike Pete, Gibson is a supporter of Ward's plans for 12,000 job cuts under the Tailored Delibery Services (TDS) agreement.

The recent changes in leadership of the postal section of the union have allowed the current pay dispute to happen, and it is commendable that Ward has so far held firm on Pay and London Weighting, whereas his predecessor (Keggie) would have by now thrown in the towel. He has also denounced the Post Office's plans for 30,000 job cuts. But the limits of Ward and Gibson are obvious from the TDS deal which conceeds in advance thousands of jobs.

Pete's result shows that there is a sizable minority of activists out there who are prepared to fight a battle on two fronts: both for better pay and against "pre-agreed" job cuts. They must be organised in order to make sure the new lot don't "do a Keggie"!

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