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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 September 2009

Postal workers national ballot: Vote 'yes' for strike action

Postal workers protest against scabbing managers, photo Bob Severn

Postal workers protest against scabbing managers, photo Bob Severn   (Click to enlarge)

Postal workers in the CWU will soon be balloting for a national strike against cuts, job losses and attacks on the union.

Jane James, Socialist Party industrial co-organiser

This follows hundreds of strikes in postal workplaces across the country where workers have taken action to defend jobs, pay, conditions, and their union reps from attacks by Royal Mail management.

Many workplaces have requested strike ballots which have not been processed.

Postal workers in Stoke are on indefinite strike in their battle to stop the closure of Leek Road mail centre.

Following the strikes in 2007, the union agreed to negotiate a national deal with management on 'modernisation.' But since then management have unilaterally imposed cuts and attacks on postal workers and their union.

These attacks escalated after the failure of New Labour to part-privatise Royal Mail as the recession forced bidders to back off. Privatisation would have resulted in huge cuts, extra workloads and a worse service.

Now Royal Mail bosses Crozier and Brydon, with the backing of New Labour, are pushing through these very same cuts.

30% of jobs in Royal Mail, totalling 40,000 jobs, have already been cut. As Royal Mail declared improved profits of 321 million this year and rewarded managers with fat bonuses, postal workers got a pay freeze and a pension deficit.

The CWU leadership offered a three month moratorium (ie a no strike deal) if management agreed to negotiate modernisation with the union. But the bosses have ignored the union and continued with the cuts.

In reality the union leadership should have called a national ballot earlier when it was obvious that management were ignoring the union and going ahead with these attacks.

The anger of members was demonstrated in their demands for local ballots but it soon became obvious that these attacks affected the whole postal industry and therefore needed a national response from the union.

Now that members are to be balloted for national action CWU activists will be campaigning hard for a 'yes' vote, whilst making sure that existing local disputes are still supported.

Postal workers have a proud tradition of trade union organisation and defending their jobs and conditions with strike action, sometimes unofficial where necessary.

Unions have carried out successful strike action and won concessions while complying with the anti-trade union laws. But in some circumstances defying the anti-union laws may be the only way to defend attacks on workers.

The anti-trade union laws were brought in by Thatcher and the Tories to weaken the unions but New Labour have been in power for 12 years and have not withdrawn them. Yet many unions, including the CWU, continue to fund New Labour.

The CWU have submitted a resolution to the TUC calling for a conference about political representation (see page 2).

On the basis of Labour's attempt to part-privatise Royal Mail and now oversee massive cuts, the outcome of such a meeting should be for the CWU and all unions affiliated to Labour to break the link, stop funding New Labour and start to build a new party committed to the interests of workers, not the bosses.

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