‘The gloves are off’ as postal workers move towards strike vote

Gary Clark, branch secretary Scotland No.2 branch (personal capacity)

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) ballot for strike action across Royal Mail opens on 28 June. This could lead to the first national postal strike since 2009. The ballot will run until 19 July.

In advance of ballots opening, CWU deputy general secretary postal, Terry Pullinger, was invited to a 7am Café meeting with bosses – hopeful that a meaningful offer to hold off industrial action was to be tabled. Instead, Royal Mail’s CEO and head of HR informed Terry of plans to impose a well-below-inflation 2% pay offer.

Within an hour, the CEO had released a video statement, sending shockwaves of anger through all levels of the union. In the words of Terry: “The gloves are off!”

In his video, the CEO had the cheek to say that he understands that members are facing a cost-of-living crisis, which is why he wants to pay members £200 upfront to help us through. He thinks £200 will buy us off! At the same time he received a ‘short-term bonus’ of £142,000, taking his package to £753,000. I’m sure he won’t be worrying how he’s going to pay his bills!

I have never known such a strong mood for action in my 26 years as a CWU rep. Official gate meetings are taking place up and down the country and, if anything, the £200 has only made the mood more determined. I think there is no doubt we are going to see a massive ‘yes’ for strike action.

For the first time, the union has been made aware of management proposals for the future. They are determined to smash our hard-won terms and conditions. Proposals include imposing ‘flexible hours’ where extra time completing deliveries at the end of the day would go into a ‘flexitime bank’. If workload is short, we would ‘owe’ the company time.

As things stand, Sunday working is done on voluntary overtime with enhanced pay. Bosses want to treat Sunday as any other working day. Under plans, new starters would be on a basic 40-hour week at a lower hourly rate than existing staff on a 35-hour week. Perhaps the biggest planned attacks are to sick pay.

These are only some of the changes the bosses want to force through. It’s clear they are preparing for a fight with the CWU and we are heading for a major clash. We need to prepare for a battle with management and link in with other unions in the months ahead.

  • 40,000 CWU members in BT group are also balloting for strike action over pay. The ballot, which opened on 15 June, could lead to the first BT-wide strike since 1987.