Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/625/9546
Communication Workers Union conference: Hands off Royal Mail!
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) annual conference runs from 23-27 May. Since the last conference we have seen some of the most important battles in the CWU's history.
Gary Clark, assistant branch secretary, Scotland No.2 CWU
This time last year we were fighting Royal Mail, a company fully supported by the New Labour government. This was an attack on our terms and conditions forced through by executive action.
At the same time we were facing Labour's attempt to part privatise Royal Mail. We managed to defeat this. This was not because of a political change of heart but because of the economic situation. Business secretary Mandelson warned he would come back to it when the situation changed.
Postal workers were involved in a long and bitter dispute with some of the worst managers in the public sector. At best they wanted to bypass the union but many workers believed that management's agenda was to smash the CWU.
We saw a number of local disputes breaking out around the country. They started in the east of Scotland and soon spread, particularly to London. This led to the national dispute where we had huge support, with some of the strongest picket lines for many years.
This was met with the now infamous statement by Lord Mandelson that he was "beyond angry" as he sided with management against the CWU. But with such strong support from our membership we forced management back round the table for a period of intense talks which ended in a national agreement.
The Socialist Party recognised that there had been some concessions by the management. From a position where Royal Mail were imposing change by executive action, the union was now involved at all stages. This was a step forward, but we could not support a deal that left many of our members facing pay cuts of around £20 a week.
We have now seen a new government elected and a Tory Liberal coalition where both parties support the sell off of Royal Mail. We must be prepared to fight this with all the weapons we have, including industrial action.
In The Socialist 19 May 2010:
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party election analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news