Battle lines drawn up between Royal Mail and CWU

Socialist Party member in CWU

Industrial relations between the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and senior Royal Mail management have taken a serious turn for the worse and are probably at an all-time low. It seems Royal Mail has chosen this as the time to try to break the CWU, which is viewed as one of the most combative trade unions.

Last week the CWU started its second strike ballot, on terms and conditions. It follows the massive 97.6% ‘yes’ vote, with a 77% turnout, over the imposed 2% wage increase. Deputy General Secretary for postal, Terry Pullinger, called for CEO Simon Thompson and his board to be removed. Their sole role is clear: to protect profits and by doing so attack our members’ hard-won terms and conditions.

It is reported that the CEO then held a video conference call with 200 senior managers, in what can only be viewed as a call to war. What they used to call ‘executive action’ they now term ‘emergency response measures’. It means enforcing changes, no longer respecting the industrial relations framework of consultation with the union.

Royal Mail announced it will implement 500 ‘tabletop revisions’ by October, and 51 ‘structural revisions’ by quarter four of this financial year.

They intend to push ahead with 346 dedicated parcel hubs and will recruit 2,400 agency staff to carry out this work.  We expect these will then be used to carry out work when the CWU takes strike action.

All of these are against the Pathway to Change national agreement made in 2021.

We now believe Royal Mail are going to further announce major changes to sick pay and sickness procedures, changes to start times by up to three hours, and push forward total flexibility and annualised hours. They want to bring in new members of staff on worse terms and conditions, which I believe could lead to ‘fire and rehire’.

All of this is against the backdrop of Royal Mail making £758 million in profits. It gave £400 million to shareholders, with another £138 million to be paid out soon, and millions to directors.

This is clearly a very serious situation. Our members are now preparing for potentially our longest dispute since the 1971 strike. We believe this will be a make-or-break strike.

We now must name a series of strike dates to show we mean business. CWU should call for a meeting with other unions who are also in dispute to see if we can call joint days of action, and make a call to the whole movement to support us in our fight.