Royal Mail Strike: CWU sells workers a pay cut

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The revival of workers' struggles in 2003 has continued in many countries throughout 2007, and Britain has been no exception. The recent struggle of workers at Royal Mail showed both workers' militancy as well as the ability of the Communication Workers Union to sabotage the strike. When the union sold the pay deal they rather neglected to point out that it was effectively a pay cut. However, the unofficial strikes in Liverpool and South London showed that not all workers submitted to union diktats. And although workers did not entirely see what role the union had been playing, it was commonplace to view the final deal as at least a sell-out.

The CWU separated the question of pensions from the rest of the deal in order to sell it to postal workers. There was also a widespread idea, spread by union officials in the north, that it was only because of workers in the south that the deal got through, which both hid their responsibility for pushing the deal through and attempted to sow divisions among the posties.

In reality the new flexibility is one further step toward 76,000 lay-offs and local agreements that will push productivity and Royal Mail's agenda against the interests of workers.

But although it is impossible to see the deal as anything other than a defeat for postal workers, it is absolutely necessary to salute the solidarity action and moves towards the extension of the strike by the postal workers in the early stages of the struggle. And, at the end of the strike the wildcats in South London and Liverpool showed continuing combativity as workers clearly wanted to fight on.

The CWU countered workers' militancy by stopping picket lines and imposing a localism that kept each picket line separate and unconnected from each other.

One important feature of the strike lies in the parts of the movement that were unofficial, that is to say outside the control of the union. The perspective of such wildcat strikes is a positive sign for the future. Also the suspicion of the unions is slowly developing. At first workers thought the union was selling out. Then we saw workers say they were cancelling their union subs. Bit by bit workers are being compelled to understand that their struggles can only succeed if they're run by workers themselves and not by the unions. Car 2/12/07

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