Even before the Trades Union Congress (TUC) demonstration in June, there was a clear upsurge in industrial disputes, as the deepening cost of living crisis causes misery to millions of working class people across the country. In the twelve months before April 2022, the TUC had logged at least 300 disputes in a multitude of different industries.
Meanwhile, between October 2021 and March 2022 GMB members entered into dispute with 42 employers, which is seven times the number of disputes in the same period in 2019-20. In the aftermath of the demonstration, this upsurge looks set to continue.
As reported previously by Socialist Alternative, Communication Workers Union (CWU) members in Royal Mail are preparing to ballot for industrial action against a derisory 2% pay offer, linked to attacks on terms and conditions.
Meanwhile, the company is boasting huge profits and bumper dividends for shareholders, thanks to the boom in parcel deliveries during the pandemic. The ballot will shortly be underway and the union is reporting well-attended meetings of members and activists in preparation.
More than 110,000 members across Britain and Northern Ireland will be included in the ballot. Through its use of national mobilisations, including workplace and gate meetings, the CWU has done remarkably well in the recent past in defying the Tory anti-trade union ballot thresholds.
For example, 97% of Royal Mail workers voted to take action over pay and conditions in 2019. A High Court injunction obtained by the company prevented action, before a re-ballot in March 2020 produced a 94.5% majority for action. Unfortunately this coincided with the lockdowns and the action was called off. A similarly organised and determined campaign will be required this time around in order to again smash the thresholds.
In the run-up to the TUC demonstration and afterwards, the government and the media have been ramping up the anti-trade union rhetoric, particularly in relation to the national rail strikes. However, various polls show that public support for railway workers remains high.
The ruling class is clearly rattled, which explains why the Tories are trying to introduce new legislation to bring in scab labour (see article on RMT strike) to try and break the strike action. These new laws could be similarly used against the Royal mail workers.
In response, the CWU and all trade unions that are willing to fight must coordinate strike ballots and action across all sectors of the economy. Up until now, such a joined-up strategy has been sadly lacking.
For example, a ballot of Unite members in the Royal Mail opened on 6 June over plans to remove 542 frontline delivery managers. Whilst the Unite and CWU disputes are separate, there should be no excuses for failing to coordinate ballots of workers under the same employer.
Given the attacks from the ruling class as the capitalist crisis deepens, only a determined and coordinated response from the trade union movement can mobilise the millions of workers that are suffering at the sharp end.