The CWU Postal Executive will be recommending an acceptance of December’s proposed agreement with Royal Mail. Although the agreement gives important commitments to no zero-hour contracts, no pushing of workers into under-employment and a review of the industrial relations strategy, it has given up more than it has achieved.
The proposed agreement came after averted national strike action in response to the company’s stock flotation in September. Union leaders refused to prepare for immediate strike action if the company was floated and were caught offguard when the government brought the date forward. Left dealing with a fait accompli and no alternative, the call for strike action lacked a clear strategy but still received overwhelming support for action to defend jobs, pay and conditions. The talks averted action to allow for what was considered ‘significant movement on the side of management’.
This agreement has been quite consciously formulated as a set of legally binding commitments. Management have demanded an effective no strike deal if they stick to their terms until 2018; a pay increase of 9% when a £200 lump sum is included over 3 years, a commitment to end the policy of managed decline, no two-tiered workforce, dividend payments to workers and the end of outsourcing. CWU representatives will be integrated into decision-making bodies both at a regional and national level for growth, training and industrial relations including an appeals body.
The agreement is null and void should the CWU take strike action throughout the period of the agreement with limited right to appeal if the agreement is implemented in regard to the workforce. However the employer has stronger rights to leave or amend the agreement for instance, should management consider a part of the company ceases to be “financially sustainable” then all protections are withdrawn.
This agreement could suck the union into the running of the company with the use of some big carrots which in the current climate can look quite good. However the increased involvement of the union representative and officials of running the company will be forever be at the whim of the board of directors. A board appointed at AGM’s where the final say is with the venture capitalist and speculators who were the main beneficiaries of the stock flotation.
This strategy is used extensively in large companies on the continent in the form of Works Councils where trade union representatives are blackmailed with the “business case” for attacking workers’ pay and conditions. The natural philosophy of these forums is the question of compromise – compromise to suit the bosses.
The union risks becoming a second wing of management unless a strategy is fought for to really put the workforce and service users in charge – for the re-nationalisation and democratic control of the postal service. The fight to save the postal service was averted when the CWU leadership couldn’t show a way of fighting it. We can’t afford to allow that to happen again.