When looking at the deal we must view where we were and where we are now. Early last year the management started their “modernisation programme”. They charged ahead without agreement, in fact they said they did not need an agreement.
That’s when the union started to campaign against management’s slash and burn. My own branch began the industrial action, when in March last year a small delivery office in Fife took strike action.
This soon spread, particularly in London and other areas. This led to a national ballot and strike action, resulting in an interim agreement. A period of intense negotiations finally produced this national agreement.
Many members will be asking what has been gained by last year’s industrial action.
What must be the starting point is that the aim of management and the government was to smash the CWU as a combative force. Now, all changes to working practices will have to be made with the full involvement of the CWU at all levels. This time last year, Royal Mail were introducing change without agreement or any involvement with the CWU.
Much has been made of an inflation-busting 6.9% three-year pay deal. But this should be viewed as a four-year deal as there was a wage freeze last year. Many delivery workers will lose money. Those employed before the 2007 dispute will still receive an early shift allowance of £12 and get paid for delivering door to door items [junk mail]. They receive a payment of around £25 a week.
This payment is to be replaced with an allowance of £20 a week. With the upper limit of three door-to-door items being scrapped, workers will receive less money for more work.
Much has also been made of the bonuses which workers receive, dependent on certain targets being reached. But this money was already there, it has just been repackaged.
For a long time a shorter working week has been a goal of the union as a way to defend jobs. We welcome any cut in the working week but a cut of only one hour will be viewed as not enough, as Royal Mail have just announced a further 12,500 job losses.
Overall we recognise that there have been some gains made. But International Socialists and Socialist Party members in the CWU don’t believe that we can support a deal that will leave a large section of our membership financially worse off.
If the union leadership had given a clearer lead and linked up to other public sector unions then more could have been achieved.
Unfortunately so much time has elapsed since the last strike, it will be very difficult to lift the membership back into struggle. But reps from the London Division and the Bristol branch rejected the deal at a recent national meeting. And undoubtedly all reps will be fighting to ensure that their members pay and conditions are safeguarded in the coming months.