The campaign around the ballot [closing 17 March] seems more proactive this time.
Our union [CWU] rep is having one-on-one conversations with as many people as possible, directly encouraging them to vote and ensuring they’ve posted their ballot. There are more posters up in the workplace.
We’ve had one gate meeting, which was addressed by a union official I’d never seen before. He gave a good speech, everyone cheered, but there was no discussion. Those meetings are clearly not seen by the union officialdom as somewhere for collective discussion.
We get something called “work time learning” every week, where management get us in to watch work-related videos or give us presentations. The union rep gets some time at the end of that session, with management out of the room, and that’s often a time when there’s more discussion about the dispute and what’s going on.
The branch meeting is seen as something the rep goes to, with an understanding that they’ll report back anything the rest of us need to know.
There’s not yet been much explicit discussion about what kind of action to take, and when, if we win the ballot. Everyone’s focused on returning a majority and hitting the threshold.
In informal conversations I’ve had with workmates, everyone is ready and willing to strike, but I think a lot of people aren’t entirely confident we can win.
Hopefully the union will call strikes quickly after the ballot result and people’s confidence will develop via the experience of striking and conversations on the picket lines.
There are a lot of different issues involved in this dispute. Our workload is increasing, the job is getting much harder, and the pay hasn’t increase proportionally. That’s a substantial element of what people feel the dispute to be about, the detrimental way in which the job and management culture has changed.
We recently had some manager from head office come and give us a presentation, where they talked about using our ID cards to tap in and out of shift, which would mean we’d be paid to the minute. That’s the direction management want to take things in. We also had surveyors come into one of the offices I work at recently, taking measurements and discussing valuations. It looks like they’re sizing the place up to sell it off.
If the small offices close, we’ll all be working in soulless warehouse-style depots.
The other huge issue in the dispute is the fear of job losses resulting from Royal Mail transferring all the parcel and package delivery to a separate part of the business. We could see things developing more in the direction of a Deliveroo-style, gig-economy model.
The way Royal Mail justify what they’re trying to do is by asserting that the company has to “modernise” in order to “stay competitive”. But we shouldn’t be seeing things in terms of the profit motive.
The privateers who took over Royal Mail when it was privatised can only understand things in terms of maximising their profit. But some of the services Royal Mail provides, or should be providing, might not be “profitable”, but are still socially necessary.
We need a postal delivery service as a public service.