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Posted on 11 December 2013 at 11:09 GMT

CWU Royal Mail agreement: Defend our right to strike!

Postal workers' right to strike is under threat , photo Paul Mattsson

Postal workers' right to strike is under threat , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

CWU member, Coventry, Postal

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has announced it has reached a "landmark agreement with Royal Mail that gives workers legal protections on their terms and conditions, increases pay over three years by 9.06%, sets out improved industrial stability and safeguards pensions".

But once the dust settles workers may be in for a bit of a shock. Tucked away under all the gloss we find the brutal reality of what the pay talks really means for Royal Mail workers - a No Strike deal.

The lengthy agreement document is in the process of being distributed to CWU members and contains details of the three year 9.06% pay deal. On the surface the pay increase seems generous, with a 3% pay rise in the first year, although employees will only be 0.1% better off once RPI is taken into consideration.

Royal Mail reported 233 million in half-yearly pre-tax profits recently (or 1.58 billion if you include the one-off windfall resulting from a pension reform), so it can well afford a pay increase for workers.

Other aspects of the proposed deal should be welcomed, such as "no employee will be engaged on a zero-hours contract" and "the employer will not outsource, sell or transfer any part of its business".

Sticking point

Yet the sticking point for CWU members will be a clause in the legally binding protections where the agreement can be torn up by Royal Mail if: "there is national-scale industrial action (in the form of a strike or action short of a strike) which has been authorised at national level by the CWU, namely industrial action which either (i) involves employees in the majority of operational workplaces across Royal Mail Group Limited; or (ii) involves employees in an integral part of the operation whereby taking action will have, or is reasonably likely to have, a similarly disruptive effect."

Workers have every right to be concerned, given the historical record of employee relations in Royal Mail. Anger was evident by comments written on a forum: "I would never vote YES to any agreement that takes away my right to strike", with another writing: "The CWU have taken away our biggest bargaining tool".

Once you take away the strongest weapon, our ability to withdraw our labour, then you are left with just a talking shop of constant compromise that inevitably favours the employer and erodes pay and conditions for workers.

Royal Mail plan to introduce new ways of working over the coming years, buzz words like "efficiency" and "incentive arrangements" are littered throughout the proposed agreement and once those details finally emerge, workers will be squeezed even tighter to produce more profit for shareholders.

The ballot will conclude later in January 2014 but postal workers need to look beyond the cash incentives and think long and hard before they cast their vote. For me, I would never approve of a ballot that takes away my basic human right to strike.

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