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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Postal struggles

by New Worker correspondent

POSTAL WORKERS are preparing to ballot for nationwide action at the Royal Mail. A meeting at the TUC last week for 500 Communication Workers Union (CWU) representatives saw leading union figures warn of serious battles ahead for the unions’ 110,000 Royal Mail members.

Deputy General Secretary (Postal) Terry Pullinger urged activists to “give it everything we’ve got” in their efforts to maximise the turnout and a ‘Yes’ vote in the forthcoming Royal Mail national ballot.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady pledged support on behalf of the TUC.

no shortage

There are no shortage of battles to be fought. At present the union has 34 requests for local ballots in response to Royal Mail managers’ impositions of various instances of executive actions. These range from removals of machines and alterations to shift and duty patterns to imposed revisions.

Midlands divisional representative Paul Kennedy and Bristol & District Amal Branch secretary Rob Wotherspoon detailed difficult situations in their respective areas. At Nottingham Mail Centre members are under threat of drastic changes to their working arrangements, whilst at Bristol Mail Centre bosses have threatened to axe 100 jobs – along with a point-blank refusal to rule out compulsory redundancies.

Pullinger said that provocative behaviour by Royal Mail seems to be part of a deliberate strategy. Earlier that week CWU organised 800 workplace meetings up and down the country. He warned that such meetings would only encourage the bosses to provoke unofficial action; any such attempts, he warned, must not be allowed to succeed. He explained that Royal Mail management are “trying to get under people’s skins, because they’re petrified of the national ballot and they want to provoke unofficial action by our members”.

General secretary Dave Ward noted the recent fall in the company’s share price as a reason for their current highly provocative behaviour, which he described as a “panic reaction”.

Early last month the union denounced the present management. It noted that when they took over in 2018 industrial relations were harmonious with a new blueprint agreement in place that was addressing problems. Then the share price was 496 pence. Last Friday it was just 162p.

The union accuses management of having a “one trick pony vision of just growing parcels”. Royal Mail has publicly stated it is no longer about service but all about profit. It would like to ditch the obligation to provide a door-to-door service nationwide.

CWU says: “Royal Mail is no longer a great public service that can generate revenue by merging entrepreneurism, innovation and social aims, but a privatised public service in the grip of a potential corporate raid of greed.

“If the new regime at Royal Mail Group goes unchallenged the real losers will be the people of this country, one of the greatest inventions of our social history and our members.”

Ward said that Royal Mail’s plan to separate the highly profitable Parcelforce from the rest of Royal Mail is undeliverable.

a weapon

He also said that the union should not oppose technology itself but oppose its application “as a weapon against workers” and, instead, win the shorter working week as “our share in the benefit of technology”.

Going into more detail, assistant secretaries Mark Baulch and Davie Robertson set out in further detail the specific issues in dispute in delivery and in processing and distribution respectively.

Robertson denounced the imposition of Automated Hours Data capture technology and Baulch compared the company’s use of technology to “electronic tagging”, slamming management’s “disgraceful treatment” of delivery workers.