Postal strike: Solidarity means a common struggle

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On Friday 13 July postal workers throughout Britain will be engaged in the second national strike against the Royal Mail’s derisory wage offer of 2.5% with strings. The first strike showed that the vast majority of postal workers are resolved to fight against the RM offer. Throughout the whole industry the strike was solid with a maximum number of workers on strike, contrary to RM’s initial claims. Workers showed scant regards for legal guidelines about numbers of pickets as scores of workers joined the picket line, in some cases reinforced by other public sector workers coming to show solidarity.

Next Friday’s strike will, in all likelihood be the same. But RM is counting on this willingness to fight fading over time, and there is a real danger of this strike being isolated and ground down. There are already signs of this happening. Royal Mail are adamant about sticking to their ‘plan’ for modernising the Post Office, and following the breakdown of the last round of negotiations it would seem that they are not moving an inch. This scotches the idea put forward by the CWU that strikes would bring RM to the negotiating table with a better offer, and RM has said that it is ready to deal with a long strike. The CWU have from the onset of this dispute refused to say exactly what the demands of the postal workers are. All they are doing is to oppose the 2.5% offered by RM. But we can get an idea of what the CWU really expects from the strike when we look at the statement by Dennis Kilagriff, CWU’s South Central Divisional Representative, published (without any criticism) in Socialist Worker of 7.7.07. “The CWU calls for:

* Royal Mail to enter meaningful talks with the union on resolving pay and major change, and to honour agreements that committed both parties to agree a joint approach on pay and modernisation.

* An urgent government review of the damaging impact of competition on Royal Mail to date, in line with Labour’s manifesto commitment.

*An immediate change to Postcomm’s competition rules and a fairer pricing and access regime that gives Royal Mail the revenues it needs to support the universal postal service and post office network.”

In short: all the CWU are calling for is for Royal Mail to have a bigger slice of the pie, calling for the rules of capitalist competition to be rewritten in its favour. The main concern of the CWU is therefore not the class interests of the workers but the efficiency of their boss – the Post Office. In particular, the CWU are not against ‘modernisation’ which will mean automatic redundancies - all they are doing is haggling over the numbers. The fact that postal workers are striking because they are effectively facing pay-cuts and redundancies does not come into the equation.

The postal workers have a massive will to fight but they are not in control of this struggle – its demands or its methods. Workers who have time and time again thrown away the union rule-book and come out on strike after holding on the spot mass meetings understandably hesitate about taking things into their hands when it comes to a large national strike. This hesitation is giving a free hand for the CWU to run the strike – and to ‘sell it out’ at the end.

Against the union’s attempts to make ‘negotiation’ the goal of the struggle, postal workers need to find the real sources of their strength:

  • organising their own struggle through mass meetings open to all workers. Mass meetings need to decide when to strike, how to strike and what demands to raise
  • seeking the active support and solidarity of other workers. Immediately by linking up directly with the Crown Post Office workers who are facing the same rotten deal. But other workers in the public sector are facing exactly the same attacks. In fact the postal workers are being set up as a test case in order that these attacks can go forward. No sector of workers can gain from struggling in isolation. Real solidarity means waging a common struggle.

The wider the resistance, the less the chance of the ruling class picking us off one by one.

WR 7/07/07.

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