COMMUNICATION WORKERS UNION
Glasgow & District Amalgamated Branch
Tam Dewar CWU Area Delivery Rep DG/KA
The last national Postal strike in 2007 was concluded when the CWU and Royal Mail agreed a process to negotiate change in response to new technology. This Pay and Modernisation Agreement, endorsed by 60% of the membership, laid out a four phase process to conclude by April 2009 in a new pay and reward scheme and methods of working in Delivery.
From 2007 till 2009 the CWU agreed changes locally through the PMA which resulted in massive savings to Royal Mail. Some units were rewarded by a 50/50 bonus scheme, most units received no bonus. Lump sum awards and a 1.5% increase in basic pay in 2008 was largely self funded. Royal Mail has now walked away from the final phase of this Agreement, not only announcing a pay freeze, at a time of growing company profits, but introducing changes to working practises which affect members earnings and job security. Royal Mail have a view of future delivery jobs being largely part time.
The recent CWU national conference in Bournemouth was dominated by requests for industrial action from units throughout the UK in response to Royal Mail’s misuse and eventual abrogation of the Pay and Modernisation Agreement. Many members feel that if Royal Mail can walk away from this agreement then the CWU should declare the PMA dead and return to established ways of working. It is worthy of note that the Postal Executive which endorsed this Agreement was returned to office with around 10% of the membership voting.
Postal workers in the East of Scotland were the first to use the collective power of the CWU to resist the RM model of “Modernisation” spreading eastwards. Their action had such an effect on the service that Ayrshire managers (members of Unite) were ‘drafted’ to deliver mail. Now that members from the Ayrshire Coast will take to the picket line to explain their case, these managers will be occupied in Ayrshire.
Members in my home unit of Irvine took strike action on Saturday 20th June in response to Royal Mail managers who ignore agreements with the Union on working practises, only after months of talks at local level have been exhausted.
This may well be a prolonged action given the complete inability or unwillingness of senior RM managers to pay due regard to the wishes of the men and women who deliver and collect the mail. Although Irvine DO is the first to take action they will be followed by other units in Ayrshire unless Royal Mail negotiate “modernisation” plans.
Although the Irvine strike is local, in that it concerns the abuse of working practises and the intimidation and threats against senior serving and part time staff, it illustrates the attitudes of RM managers to national and local agreements. We need the protection, at local bargaining level, of a strong Union with national bargaining power.
In addition CWU members face the possible “Part Privatisation” of Royal Mail by a Labour Government elected with a mandate from the British electorate to maintain RM in public ownership. Likewise the Leadership of the CWU believed they had a similar commitment from the Labour Party through the “Warwick Agreement”.
My old Aunt, who read palms and tea leafs, had more accurate powers of prediction than the Leadership of the CWU have managed over what Labour will do next. Prior to the release of the Hooper report we were told that the CWU had a good working relationship with the Business Secretary John Hutton and that Labour would fulfil the “Warwick Agreement”. The very next day Hutton was replaced by Lord Mandelson, “Warwick” was forgotten and Labour intended to privatise Royal Mail. At a briefing in May we were told that the Prime Minster need CWU help out of the privatisation hole, Mandelson would be moved and the CWU view would prevail. Less than two weeks later the PM’s jacket is on a slack nail and Lord Mandelson rules supreme, showing no sign of backing off Privatisation. Not a lot of return for the £1m of CWU members money flowing into Labour coffers. On a more positive note the CWU have run a faultless campaign to influence the public and politicians on Royal Mail privatisation. It would make more sense to spend the political fund on more of the same as the legislative programme rolls on.
That it should be a Labour Government which proposes privatisation of Postal jobs holds it own paradox for Irvine workers. A clandestine meeting of the newly formed Ayrshire Miners Union met on Irvine Moor in 1887 to adopt resolutions advocating “the formation of a Labour Party in the House of Commons“. The Ayrshire miners, following the lead of James Keir Hardie, realised that industrial strength and political representation of the working class in parliament were necessary to change society for the better. Now that the political representation has been corrupted, despite the views of ordinary Labour members, we depend even more on our industrial strength to defend jobs and conditions.
(in a personal capacity)