CWU: Selling out or just doing its job?
After nearly 3 months of dispute the worse fears of postal workers have been confirmed. The Communication Workers Union (CWU), through its executive, have recommended acceptance of a deal which is practically the same as the original offer made by Royal Mail. After 3 weeks of wrangling Billy Hayes and Dave Ward were desperately attempting to put together a package that they could sell to postal-workers. In a joint statement of Royal Mail/CWU to all CWU branches, Ward and Hayes had the gall to say: "Royal Mail and CWU recognise that the scale of the recent dispute has the potential to damage relationships between managers, reps and employees ... Everyone wants to put the dispute behind us and we are all committed to restoring good industrial and employee relations at all levels". The statement says that "The CWU will withdraw all current and proposed industrial action relating to the national dispute".
This is after Royal Mail had agreed that union reps were reinstated to their original status, maintaining that the CWU are able to control the strike.... "We must also recognise that the agreement gives the Union the opportunity to be at the centre of dealing with change at the national and local level".
Many postal-workers are now asking themselves why they struggled so hard for so many weeks, and lost so much pay (in the case of Liverpool and London the loss of 3 weeks pay through wildcat action) to be handed a deal which is hardly distinguishable from the original offer.
The CWU boasts that it has separated the questions of pensions from the national dispute, when quite obviously postal-workers see the defence of their pension rights as absolutely fundamental. The question of the pensions has been postponed until the Twelfth of Never.
"The Postal Executive has also agreed a joint statement on the Pension Consolidation. Pensions has been decoupled from the Pay and Modernisation Agreement and given that it's a group-wide issue, will now be subject to a separate national briefing and separate communications". Retiring at 60 means a massive loss of benefits and new entrants into the industry will not be eligible for this pension scheme. Essentially, this was the original Royal Mail position on the issue of pensions as now endorsed by the CWU.
The joint agreement is not a ‘sell-out' but the time-honoured manner in which unions play their role in disputes.
With the question of pay, the 6.9% (5.4% now and the rest at a later date) that the CWU has accepted is practically the same increase that was originally offered by Royal Mail. The sweetener being a lump sum of £175 with acceptance and the possibility of a further £400 some time in the future under Royal Mail's phoney ‘ColleagueShare' scheme. The £400 is contingent on ‘productivity' and ‘flexibility' completed in "phase 2 of the modernisation process". Acceptance of the pay deal means an acceptance of the modernisation process put forward by RM. ‘Flexibility' will change working practices in the industry and was the main concern of all postal-workers and the reason that they fought so hard during the strike. The CWU tried to circumvent this thorny issue by very devious means indeed. It placed the question of change and flexibility onto the local level, which meant by-passing the CWU executive and passing it on to local union reps and RM managers.
Such are the changes to present working practices that workers will be asked to work all sorts of different hours and with management having the ability to use posties at any time. Also group working will be introduced on the Dutch model which sets responsibility for dealing with large volumes of mail traffic on the shoulders of postal-workers.
Royal Mail would not be able to introduce such changes without the determination of the CWU to sell the deal to postal workers. It's yet more evdence that workers need to take struggles into their own hands. Melmoth 3/11/7