Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/497/2673
Critical dispute for postal workers
COMMUNICATION WORKERS' Union (CWU) members in the postal service are taking further action in their struggle for decent pay, to defend jobs and stop cuts to the service.
A rolling programme of strikes is taking place over two weeks resulting in action being taken in each section of Royal Mail which will mean members each taking two days of strike action. The last 24-hour strike was once again very solid and determined.
Anger is growing as Royal Mail managers continue to treat the union with contempt, refusing to negotiate with the union and going ahead with further cuts. Their latest plans would mean workers having to retire five years later or have their pensions slashed (senior managers exempt.) This is blamed on a £6 billion deficit not helped by Royal Mail taking a ten-year pension 'holiday.'
Dave Ward, deputy general secretary of the CWU has said that "members aren't going to roll over and accept this. It will only galvanise support for strike action." This is on top of the provocative announcement that thousands of postal workers will suffer a wage cut when later deliveries will be imposed from 13 August. The abolition of the Sunday collections has also been confirmed.
There is recognition from many postal workers now that the two 24-hour strikes separated by two weeks - which received overwhelming support - are not having a significant effect and that action must be escalated.
The CWU leadership hope that this latest action will minimise the amount of strike days alongside maximum disruption to the service. It is always preferable to use the least action necessary (and therefore the least amount of hardship) to cause the most disruption and win the dispute as quickly as possible. But while it could result in the blocking up of the postal network there can be inherent dangers in this rolling action.
When all workers are out on the same day (as in previous strikes) there is a feeling of strength and it is possible to bring workers together with rallies, meetings and demonstrations. Rather than being part of united national action, this latest action could potentially bring problems of confusion and isolation.
Members could find themselves in a difficult position as a number of Royal Mail buildings will see members out on strike at different times. Inevitably some members not scheduled to take strike action will refuse to cross picket lines out of solidarity or refuse to do the work of those on strike and could then face victimisation from management.
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes has called on members to support this action in a 'disciplined manner' and of course members will want to do so. But things could easily escalate into unofficial action with the danger of workers feeling more isolated.
Members forced to take unofficial action must be supported. After all much of the action taken by union members to further their cause is only classed as 'unofficial' because of the discriminatory anti-trade union laws supported by the Labour Party precisely to hold back effective action.
Public service workers
THE LATEST action must be fully supported. Future action, which is likely to be needed, should be escalated further with at least two or three consecutive days of national united strike action.
At stake is not only the pay and conditions of postal workers. The attacks on postal workers and the postal service itself are part of New Labour's plans to destroy our public services and privatise as much of the public sector as possible. In the same way that TNT and other private postal companies are making profits from a public postal service, big business are also hiving off parts of the health service, education and local services to line their pockets.
The wages and conditions of public sector workers are being driven down to match those in unscrupulous private companies. This is a benchmark dispute because if Royal Mail, backed by the government, get away with their attacks on postal workers and their union then that will be a green light for further attacks on all public sector workers and their unions.
This is not only a battle for the CWU. All trades unionists should support demonstrations and rallies called by the CWU but public-sector unions should also co-ordinate action on their battles against the pay freeze and plan a one-day public-sector strike.
In The Socialist 24 July 2007:
Postal workers' strike
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Tales from the council chambers
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party reviews
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis