The Socialist 25 October 2007 |
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Reject Royal Mail deal: Vote 'No' and reinstate the action
Postal workers up and down the country have taken part in a courageous fight against a vicious management intent on destroying jobs and postal workers' conditions while preparing the industry for privatisation.
Gary Clark , Sub area rep, Scotland No.2 CWU
We have taken both official and unofficial action over the past few months involving the loss of two weeks wages for all posties and for some up to four weeks, which has caused hardship in many cases.
Despite this the strikes remained strong, in fact as solid as they were on day one of the dispute.
Against this background it is with anger that postal workers will view the "deal" that the Communication Workers Union (CWU) postal executive committee (PEC) has agreed to recommend to our members in a ballot. While a few concessions have been won, this agreement will mean a wage cut in real terms and a real attack on terms and conditions with more to come in the near future.
On pay the headline rise of 6.9% over 18 months does not tell the real story. What the management is offering is 5.4% from October 2007 with an extra 1.5% in April 2008 only if local flexibility has been deployed.
With a pay rise due since April 2007 the 5.4% is clearly a false figure and equates to a six month pay freeze from April to October. Over the whole year it only amounts to a pay rise of around 2.8% which is well below the rate of inflation.
Royal Mail have included a one-off lump sum of £175 from savings already made, which is our own money. This all amounts to a wage cut in real terms.
If this was not bad enough the additional pay rise of 1.5% from April next year is only ensured if we implement local 'flexibility'.
The series of unacceptable strings includes immediate operational changes which will include later start times. The deal recommended by the CWU PEC includes the securing of 'grandfather rights' (rights attached to the individual and not the job) on early shift allowances. But this will be lost by 'natural wastage' over time.
So we are supposed to agree to savings for Royal Mail with no real gains for the postal worker and a change in start times that are supposed to take into account individual circumstances "as far as possible." But this guarantees nothing.
Weekend working will cease along with bank holiday work apart from dealing with first class mail. This will be accompanied by the end of Sunday collections from Sunday 21 October representing a major lost of earnings for many members.
Management's one-sided approach on flexibility includes "longs and shorts" which means different daily attendances, for example one day working for seven hours and the next day working nine hours. This will be coupled with a variation of hours. Postal workers could be asked to work an extra 30 minutes a day at short or no notice. This represents a slight concession from the two hours that Royal Mail originally wanted.
During our dispute we resorted to 'doing the job properly' ie not coming in early, taking our full break and not using our cars. As a result mail has been failing day by day so we proved that we don't have enough hours on a daliy basis as it is without more cuts.
They also want to introduce summer staffing where five postal workers will be expected to do the work of six at present.
What the management calls "transforming the way we work" really means that we will have to agree to trials to cover anyone on annual leave or on short term sick leave within our duty time. This will put extra work onto the postal worker. We will only receive our next year's pay "rise" of 1.5% once this is achieved.
The above are termed as phases one to three. In phase four there will be three joint working groups to look at modernisation, consultation and negotiation which will mean future attacks on our terms and conditions.
CWU reps who have had their union facility time taken away will have it restored as part of the deal but we must ensure that all disciplinary procedures against victimised workers are removed.
Despite the management proposals to decouple the issue of pensions from the pay deal their aim remains the same - to remove the final salary pension scheme and replace it with a career average one.
Despite some more concessions being made they have not gone far enough to match the members' aspirations, which have been made clear by the postal workers' massive support for the recent strikes.
The fact that the negotiations between Royal Mail and the CWU negotiators were secret and the lack of information generally from the leadership has meant postal workers have not been sufficiently informed of the negotiations and strategy during the dispute.
It is vital that the left in the CWU and new union activists in the union organise to build for a massive No vote in the forthcoming ballot. We need to send a clear message to management and our union leaders that we will not accept these attacks and be walked over. We can and must continue the fight to defend our wages, conditions and pensions through both official and unofficial means. This fight is far from over. Vote No and reinstate the strike action.