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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 March 2010

'Winners' and losers in Royal Mail deal

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) leadership have agreed a deal with Royal Mail that they say "delivers on the major issues which postal workers have fought for". The 80 page agreement has been met with a wide range of views amongst CWU members, as it has produced many 'winners' but also a large number of losers. Many delivery workers could lose between 10 and 30 a week.

Gary Clark, assistant branch secretary, Scotland No.2 branch CWU

When looking at the deal we must view where we were and where we are now. Early last year the management started their "modernisation programme". They charged ahead without agreement, in fact they said they did not need an agreement.

That's when the union started to campaign against management's slash and burn. My own branch began the industrial action, when in March last year a small delivery office in Fife took strike action.

This soon spread, particularly in London and other areas. This led to a national ballot and strike action, resulting in an interim agreement. A period of intense negotiations finally produced this national agreement.

Many members will be asking what has been gained by last year's industrial action. What must be the starting point is that the aim of management and the government was to smash the CWU as a combative force. Now, all changes to working practices will have to be made with the full involvement of the CWU at all levels. This time last year, Royal Mail were introducing change without agreement or any involvement of the CWU.

Much has been made of an inflation-busting 6.9% three-year pay deal. But this should be viewed as a four-year deal as there was a wage freeze last year. Many delivery workers will lose money. Those employed before the 2007 dispute will still receive an early shift allowance of 12 and get paid for delivering door to door items [junk mail]. They receive a payment of around 25 a week.

This payment is to be replaced with an allowance of 20 a week. With the upper limit of three door-to-door items being scrapped, workers will receive less money for more work.

Much has also been made of the bonuses which workers receive, dependent on certain targets being reached. But this money was already there, it has just been repackaged.

For a long time a shorter working week has been a goal of the union as a way to defend jobs. We welcome any cut in the working week but a cut of only one hour will be viewed as not enough, as Royal Mail have just announced a further 12,500 job losses.

If the union leadership had given a clearer lead and linked up to other public sector unions then more could have been achieved. So much time has elapsed since the last strike, it could be difficult to lift the membership back into struggle.

Overall we recognise that there have been some gains made. At the start of last year's dispute, Royal Mail were threatening to de-recognise the CWU and clearly wanted to break the union - activists will know that the union is still standing strong.

But Socialist Party members in the CWU don't believe that we can support a deal that will leave a large section of our membership financially worse off.

The London Division and the Bristol branch, as well as a number of individual reps, rejected the deal at a recent national meeting. And undoubtedly more reps will be fighting to ensure that their members' pay and conditions are safeguarded in the coming months.


Meeting for Socialist Party members in CWU

9 May 12-3pm, Central London.

Email gregmaughan@socialistparty.org.uk for further details

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 17 March 2010:

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