Royal Mail workers are taking their first national strike action since 2009, in what is looking like being an extremely bitter dispute.
The dates are Friday 26 and Wednesday 31 August, followed by Thursday 8 and Friday 9 September. The result of a second ballot on terms and conditions will be announced on Wednesday 17 August.
On the evening of Wednesday 10 August, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) national negotiators suspended talks with Royal Mail, due to the way the CWU was being treated with complete contempt – not just in the negotiations but all over the country. The CEO has not even been attending national negotiations, but spends his time on social media attacking the CWU. At the same time, the Royal Mail negotiation team has made no concessions.
At a time when Royal Mail claims to be losing money at a rate of £1 million a day, it has hired a strike-breaking fleet of vans, and 2,400 agency staff. It is using the Tory government’s latest anti-union law allowing the use of agency staff during strike action.
All Unite members in managerial grades have been instructed by Royal Mail that they must carry out CWU-grade work, performing the work of other trade unionists out on strike. This must be met by the strongest action by Unite.
Royal Mail bosses have no intention of attempting to open most delivery offices on strike days, but only open what they are calling their new ‘parcel hub units’ and tell all scabs to report to there. They aim to remove all packets above shoebox size from all delivery offices and put them into the delivery hubs – work that would never return to the delivery units. This will have a huge impact on all units across the country.
It is clearly a serious turn and looks like Royal Mail plans to try to break the CWU. It is preparing for a fight to the finish.
But the CWU has an angry membership that is also preparing for a long battle and, if required, will be prepared to escalate the strike. Mass picketing of the hubs where the agency workers will be used to strike break may be needed. We should be calling on the whole union movement to come to our side.
A postal worker preparing to strike spoke to Mansfield Socialist Party member Tom Hunt: “We’ve worked right through this pandemic, and they expect us to live in poverty while our bosses sit in their ivory tower! It has to stop… The bosses really don’t care about us, they even expect us to work the 4-6pm shift today in this heat… The worst thing they did was to privatise Royal Mail.”
A young postal worker spoke to London Socialist Party member Berkay Kartav:
“I am supporting my union and going on strike to demand a more sufficient pay rise. The cost-of-living crisis has hit us all hard and I’m not claiming to be the only one hit, or the hardest hit. I do feel, however, undervalued by the organisation I am working for.
“A lot of my fellow workers are forced to haggle for overtime. I’ve seen many postal workers around me exhausted from the amount they have to work to sustain financial stability.
“And who are these people? These are the people who during the Covid pandemic, risked their lives coming in to work every day to keep the country connected when we were forced to separate in isolation. Delivering important documentation, doctors’ letters, exam results and so on.
“When a large number of businesses were forced to move online, who was delivering their packages? The postal workers.
“And these are the people who were making money for the business. The share price tripled from the beginning of the pandemic to peak.
“I’ve seen this company spend £11 million on agency staff. Is it too much for us hardworking and reliable staff to ask for a respectable pay rise? No.”
BT strike again
Clive Walder, CWU Midland No1 branch (personal capacity)
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has called two more days of strike action of their BT Group and Openreach members on 30 and 31 August in pursuit of a decent pay rise. Despite the previous two days of strike action being solid, the employers have refused to enter into negotiations to settle the dispute.
The barefaced cheek of a company that gave its CEO a 32% pay rise this year, and announced a £400 million first-quarter profit just days before the last strike, in addition to £1.3 billion profits the previous year while paying £750 million in shareholder dividends.
The key to winning this dispute lies in consistent disruption to the employer’s operations. The previous action caused considerable disruption to the company.
It’s welcome that in this latest strike, different workers in the CWU are coordinating together. That is a significant step up in the action.
The members have shown that, given a lead, they will fight for decent pay and working conditions. The union now needs to urgently draw up plans and prepare the members for the possibility of more concerted and longer-lasting industrial action.
Post Office out too
The CWU has announced that Royal Mail and BT strikers will be joined by more action by their members in the Post Office. CWU says that Post Office management still refuses to move away from its pay freeze position for 2021-22.
Who’s striking when?
Royal Mail – 26 and 31 August, 8 and 9 September
BT – 30 and 31 August
Crown Post Office – 26 and 27 August
Crown Post Office admin and supply chain – 26 and 30 August