CWU official picket armband, photo Paul Mattsson

CWU official picket armband, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Carl Harper, CWU activist and Peterborough Socialist Party

On 6 September, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) served notice to Royal Mail for a strike ballot.

After months of unsatisfactory talks between the business and CWU representatives, the union leadership has now decided to act over the company’s attacks on pensions, terms and conditions of employment and working practices.

As part of the ‘Four Pillars’ of security the union is seeking from the business, the CWU had put forward an alternative ‘Wage in retirement’ proposal to address Royal Mail’s plan to replace the current defined benefit pension scheme with a far less generous one.

A reduction to the working week, extensions to the legal protections promised after privatisation and a commitment to grow the business make up the other ‘pillars’.

Following the privatisation of Royal Mail by the earlier Tory-led coalition government, the company’s approach has become one of minimising cost and maximising shareholder return.

This has led to attacks on members’ pensions and terms and conditions.

With ‘gig economy’ practices now commonplace in postal, courier and delivery companies a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ has opened up, which Royal Mail wants to be part of.

With what could be a bitter dispute looming, CWU and other trade union activists must link the dispute to calls for Royal Mail to be renationalised as an initial step to a publicly owned postal and delivery industry, democratically run by workers and customers.