The Socialist 20 May 2020 |
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Postal workers' action results in double victory for union
Gary Clark, secretary of Scotland No 2 branch of the Communications Workers Union (CWU), addressed, via Zoom, hundreds of National Shop Steward Network trade union activists on 16 May.
Gary declared a victory for the union following the departure of Royal Mail's notorious anti-union boss, Rico Back.
His exit comes quickly after management's climbdown over its suspension of the 'universal service obligation' (USO), which stopped Saturday postal deliveries.
Double victory for the CWU! photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Postal workers are celebrating seeing the back of Rico Back, capping what has been an amazing few weeks at Royal Mail. And let me make it clear, he was sacked.
Back took over Royal Mail two years ago - drawing £10 million pounds in salary, pension and so on. His brief on joining was to take on and smash the CWU, to facilitate greater returns for the big shareholders who now own the company.
I'll put this development into context. At the end of last year, the CWU balloted (97% majority to strike) after Royal Mail reneged on a national deal over jobs and conditions.
After a politicised court injunction dismissing this ballot, we won a strike reballot in the New Year by a massive 94.5% vote.
Mistakenly, the union leadership called off the strike because of the coronavirus pandemic. This gave Royal Mail bosses the confidence to go on an offensive against the union.
Incidentally, 13 postal workers have died from Covid-19 during this pandemic. During the first week of the lockdown we, along with other CWU branches, had members refuse to work in order to secure safe working conditions.
On International Workers' Memorial Day (28 April), Royal Mail announced without negotiation - and undoubtedly with government approval - that it was going to 'suspend' the USO.
This was against the backdrop of Rico Back saying he would no longer speak to the CWU during the pandemic.
This executive action, in suspending USO, was designed to ridicule postal workers, and was a clear statement this was going to be a fight to the finish with the CWU.
Between this announcement and 1 May we launched a consultation campaign. We also asked all our union reps not to enter in talks with local management over USO, and to adhere to the existing duty structures.
What we anticipated was unofficial walkouts of up to 90,000 postal workers on May Day, in advance of Royal Mail implementing its plan.
Facing this workers' uprising, Royal Mail crumbled, and announced on 1 May the ditching of its plan. We believe that the government, fearing a national postal strike just as Johnson was about to announce a partial return to work, pressured Royal Mail to abandon its plan.
Clearly, Back had completely misjudged the mood among postal workers, and he had no alternative but to go - albeit with a huge severance package.
We have also secured a Covid payment worth £200 for full-time postal workers and pro rata for part-timers. I believe this should have been paid fully to all members and not pro rata on this occasion.
But let's be clear, our original dispute, after Royal Mail reneged on our national deal over jobs, pay and working conditions, is not over.
We have forced the employer back to the negotiating table, and we intend to press home our advantage to ensure a just settlement.
Workers and the public have experienced a deterioration of the postal service under privatisation. The wider trade union movement, representing millions of workers and their families, must actively come behind our demand for the renationalisation of Royal Mail, and booting out profiteers like Back.