Originally published 4 February 2023
By Neil Moore
“A strike is not just for Christmas”, read defiant placards across the hundreds of Communication Workers Union (CWU) “Vote Yes” gate meetings in Royal Mail delivery offices, which have been taking place over January. It is clear that the mood amongst the majority of postal workers is defiant to management’s failed gambit that 18 days of strike action would break the back of CWU members. CEO, Simon Thompson’s strategy of waiting out the strikes hoping a media onslaught, building financial pressures and the use of scab and agency workers would result in acceptance of their derisory “best and final offer” from talks in January.
Under current legislation, last year’s two national Royal Mail ballots ‘expire’ under the Tories’ draconian anti-trade union laws on 19 January (Pay) and 17 February (Change) respectively. A new coordinated ballot, encompassing all the issues in dispute will close on the 16th February. This ballot must be won, so that the “YES” vote is maximised.
It is a credit to CWU reps and members that they did not allow the usual conservatising process to take place where workers are told to vote in isolation from the arguments of their reps and colleagues. Instead, the vibrant campaigns of the previous ballot must be built on with discussions opened up in every workplace on how a knock-out blow can be delivered to management. The industrial action of December, pulled an intransigent management to the table and moved them after they stated they would move no further.
The defence of our postal service as we know it, an inflationary pay rise and the scrapping of planned attacks on jobs and conditions can be won. An escalation of the action starting with a strong “YES” vote giving fresh mandate, maintaining and building on effective pickets and taking up the use of scab and agency labour is the starting point. For this to be most effective, it must be democratised further with local strike/picket committees elected and given full support from the CWU leadership to ensure members are fully informed, involved in deciding and bought in to what fighting strategy is needed to win.
The fight is on in Royal Mail, not just amongst CWU members engaged in action to defend their jobs, conditions and fight for better pay – but also for the whole labour movement as bosses across the public and private sector pay attention to this dispute to see which tactics prevail.