THOUSANDS of post workers employed by the Royal Mail have staged two 48-hour strikes within the last week and are set for further strikes throughout next week (starting 15th October) in their fight to defend pensions and working conditions. The strike was provoked by a below-inflation pay offer of 2.5 per cent and drastic changes to working conditions that, the union says, will lead to the loss of 40,000 jobs and a worsening postal service.
Workers will not know from day to day what job they will be expected to do when they arrive for work, nor what their hours will be from one day to another. The management calls this “flexible working”.
Furthermore cuts to the pension scheme mean that workers will lose up to £15,000 when they retire and the retirement age will rise from 60 to 65.
The first strike ran from midday on Thursday to midday on Saturday and the second began on Monday at midday and ran until the same time on Wednesday.
Talks at the weekend, hosted by the TUC, broke down. The CWU negotiators reported that real progress had been made in many areas, but there was agreement in none. The management offer included a pay increase of 6.9 per cent over two years but this is subject to linking unacceptable strings, including a reduction in pensions benefits.
Royal Mail’s proposals also included flexibility proposals that mean, among other things, that postal workers will not know what job they are doing from one day to the next. The CWU postal executive met to consider the offer and decided to continue with the strikes as planned.
Meanwhile the Royal Mail continues to implement change without agreement and the union has already announced more strikes. The CWU reports that support among its 130,000 members has been overwhelming.
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said: “Royal Mail’s claims regarding the numbers of people at work are a poor attempt to detract from the truth that postal workers are rejecting their proposals in overwhelming numbers. They should stop using their efforts to spin and start putting them into reaching an agreement.”
He also commented on the failure of Royal Mail top bosses to attend the talks. “We are very disappointed that Allan Leighton and Adam Crozier are nowhere to be seen when the future of British postal services are at stake,” he said.
“The Government has shown complete disinterest in the fate of this dispute. If this was Northern Rock they would be pouring money in. This is a company that they own and they seem to have no interest whatsoever.”
On Monday the union held a mass rally in Trafalgar Square – and many members stayed on to support a major Stop the War rally immediately afterwards.
After last Monday’s strike, the CWU plans to stage a programme of rolling strikes each Monday until the dispute is resolved. Each CWU member has been asked to walk-out from the start of their shift.
The union’s deputy general secretary, Dave Ward, said the strikes were “a proportionate response to an employer that is completely out of control,” after five weeks of negotiations.
PCS sent a message of support from general secretary Mark Serwotka: “Dear Billy, I am writing to offer the full support and solidarity of PCS members for the strike by your members in Royal Mail starting today.
“In common with all public servants, your members work hard to deliver a vital public service. Attempts to unilaterally impose changes to working practices and low pay increases are making the delivery of those services more difficult. Vital public services are being placed at risk.
“In common with your members PCS members are also fighting to protect their living standards and working conditions. Like you we are determined that those who work hard to serve the public are paid a fair wage.
“Best wishes and good luck.”