Royal Mail is expected to reveal record full-year profits of around £720million, up from £664million the previous year. Given Royal Mail’s previous promise to shareholders to cut staff and escalate further attacks on postal workers, it is no surprise that it has offered a paltry pay rise of 2% with massive changes in working conditions.
Royal Mail wants compulsory Sunday working; an additional 1.5% pay rise will be directly linked to increased productivity. Royal Mail wants a reduction in sick pay, scrapping several allowances, later start times, annualised hours and significantly different pay for all new members, creating a two-tier workforce.
The only people surprised by Royal Mail’s actions are the Communication Workers Union(CWU), who have bent over backwards to present the new Royal Mail management as a friend of postal workers and someone they can work with.
Over the last two years, the union has collaborated with Royal Mail in imposing draconian new changes in working conditions. When postal workers sought to oppose these attacks, the union called off a strike ballot and began phoney negotiations. These negotiations resulted in many dead and sick postal workers who were forced to work during a lethal pandemic, with the union calling postal workers the “fifth emergency service”.
The new national agreement (Pathway to Change) agreed between Royal Mail and the CWU has led to a massive increase in productivity with huge amounts of packets delivered, which meant a massive increase in profits, and at the end of last year, £400 million was given to shareholders.
The CWU has reportedly overseen record-breaking revisions, leading to hours cut, longer walks, and utter chaos in numerous offices. According to one worker,” Our office has just started its new duties after a revision where deliveries are too big, the way walks have been laid out is absurd, mail not being delivered for days and overall morale varying from discontent to hilarity at the fiasco developing. Customer service is non-existent, and turning this around seems impossible. Posties are so fed up that mail is taken for a ride and then returned to be rethrown off for the next day when the pantomime is repeated. Bigger walks, less time to do them, photographing packets daily van checks before you go out, HCTs that are not fit for purpose and a union that seems oblivious”. Several Royal Mail delivery offices took unofficial industrial action in opposition to the ‘Pathway to Change’ national agreement. One such strike at the Invergordon delivery office was taken to defend a temporary member whose contract was ended.
Amesbury and Frinton delivery offices took strike action over the massive increase in parcel delivery with cuts in staff leading to unrealistic delivery times. Workloads have now reached breaking point at a large number of offices. At Wakefield Delivery Office, West Yorkshire, the agreement rollout of a structural revision resulted in 94% of the workforce voting it down after producing unachievable workloads. Unofficial actions by postal workers have been left isolated by the CWU leadership. Regarding the current pay dispute, the union has, instead of calling an immediate strike ballot, will continue four-week negotiations behind the backs of postal workers.
As part of the CWU’s supposed battle on pay, its London organisation has released a leaflet entitled London Calling-Royal Mail’s Pay Betrayal To The Workforce. The leaflet insults the intelligence of postal workers, as no postal worker believes Royal Mail has betrayed them. If anything, large sections of postal workers conclude that it is their union that has betrayed them and collaborates so much with Royal Mail that it is becoming difficult to tell them apart.
This treachery is not just confined to British unions. Trade unions all over the world are carrying out similar policies? Embracing labour-management collaboration and handing back to the employer’s gains won by previous generations of the working class.
To defend their pay and conditions, Postal workers must break from the CWU and establish a network of rank-and-file committees.