In the next few days, Postal workers should be receiving their ballots for strike action over a pay dispute with Royal Mail Group from the Communication Workers Union(CWU).
Postal workers are arguably the most militant section of the British workforce and have on numerous occasions delivered substantial votes for strike action. Given the huge anger at the way they have been treated by Royal Mail over the issue of Pay,(the privatised postal company has acted unilaterally in foisting what amounts to a massive pay cut on its workforce with inflation currently standing at 11.7 per cent) it is a shoo-in that there will be a huge yes vote for strike action.
However much anger and militancy postal workers have, it will not be enough to defeat the plans of Royal Mail or eliminate a union leadership that spends more time hob nobbing with Royal Mail than it does defending worker’s jobs and conditions. Time and time again, postal workers have stood up and been counted, only to be betrayed by their leadership. It is clear that even to the most casual observer, the CWU does not act in the interest of postal workers but has become an arm of corporate management.
It is perhaps an unfortunate choice of words, but the current CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said, “Our members are lions, and if you prod the lion, it will attack”. Then it begs the question, who are the donkeys ?.
Even before the ballot papers hit the floor, the CWU leadership prepared to dissipate and defeat any strike action. The earliest strike action will take place in August and gives the CWU plenty of time to sell out the strike before it has even begun, which is exactly what they did with the last massive strike vote.
Before the ballot papers were issued, the CWU had sent out numerous leaflets outlining its position. The union has openly bragged that it forced postal workers to work during the pandemic and that its collaboration with management had led to a “billion-pound turnaround, record profits and restored the reputation of Royal Mail”. It has already confirmed that Royal Mail’s “charter for sweatshop labour” can be negotiated as long as a decent pay rise is guaranteed
The CWU has openly boasted that it had delivered unprecedented increases in productivity and revisions through the Pathway to Change. It also boasted of its close relationship with Royal Mail. So much so now that it invites Royal Mail Group to observe its union meetings.
At a recent National Briefing meeting In Liverpool, current CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger explained that there were RMG observers in the meeting, saying, “We must remember that we cannot allow them to set the agenda. The deal we want is a pay-only no-strings deal. This is what you and the members need to remember when management speaks to you in the workplace. Even today, the 2% deal with no strings is a derisive offer and nowhere near enough to what we want and you deserve. It may be a step from the 3.5% with all the strings, but the deal is still unacceptable. The Pathway to Change Agreement is there to deal with the strings they want to discuss in the pay deal, and that is where they will stay”.
There you have it. The Pathway To Change has led to unprecedented change, increased productivity, cut in hours and duties, led to redundancies and forced workers to work through a pandemic that has cost many lives, left some postmen with long-term sickness due to long Covid and has led to massive disruptions in delivery offices up and down the country.
As one worker relates, “Since I’ve been at my current depot, the company has been pushing more and more work onto us. They’ve reduced the number of individual walks, which means those walks get reallocated into other people’s workload. We even see some people coming in early, before their official start time, to prep their walks — or, at the other end, people sprinting round to get their walks done as there’s simply so much to cover. Now management is talking about restructuring our hours so we wouldn’t be in work on Monday and Tuesday, when the workload tends to be lighter, and having us work Wednesday to Sunday instead. That would obviously wreck work/life balance for many people”.
The union has done nothing to protect the health of its membership and deliberately put workers in harm’s way to increase the productivity and profits of Royal Mail. As CWU rep David Robertson stated, “we attended work during the height of the pandemic. We delivered as best we could under the strain of tremendous volume and high sick absences. We put the customer before our health concerns and that of our families”.
The pièce de resistance has been the union’s agreement, and implementation of the “Above & Beyond bonus scheme”, a one-off payment in case any worker wants to work themselves to death for a one-off payment. Any worker who wants to find out the inspiration for this piece of stupidity should delve into the history books. Joseph Stalin introduced the Stakhanovite movement, which became synonymous with workers being worked to death for a pittance.
The CWU openly boasts that it has delivered a massive profit of £758 and a huge dividend to shareholders through the sweat of postal workers. It has carried out over 1200 Delivery Office revisions. These revisions have not only seen cuts in hours but heavier workloads and loss of overtime. In many delivery offices, this has caused utter chaos, with some deliveries not being made for days if not weeks.
Also it should be made clear that the CWU is not opposed to Sunday working but must be implemented under its control. The union has said, “We are willing to discuss innovative duties and duty patterns”. This must be done, it says, with the collaboration of Royal Mail boasting that in 2021 it had agreed to 48 Joint Statements and in 2022 had issued a further 37.
Even if the CWU act upon what will be a huge vote for strike action, postal workers will still be saddled with a leadership that is hell-bent on collaborating further with its corporate partner. In order to defend jobs and pay, postal workers need a new perspective and leadership. The first step on this road is to take the struggle out of the hands of the CWU and form rank and file committees. As the great Rosa Luxemburg said, “The modern proletarian class doesn’t carry out its struggle according to a plan set out in some book or theory; the modern workers’ struggle is a part of history, a part of social progress, and in the middle of history, in the middle of progress, in the middle of the fight, we learn how we must fight”.
 Royal Mail Group Pay Dispute 2022 Leaflet
 “The Politics of Mass Strikes and Unions”; Collected Works 2