POSTAL workers, members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) are on strike today in north-east and south-east London against Royal Mail’s plans to axe 40,000 jobs, impose an effective pay cut, bring in flexible working and make draconian changes to pensions.
This localised action has been provoked by the state-owned Royal Mail’s recourse to ‘executive action’ to impose these changes. These include flexible working, varying the kind of work carried out by employees and changes to starting times, which are due to come in on October 8.
Next week, the CWU has called a 48-hour strike on October 4-6, there will be another one on October 8-10 and in the week beginning October 15, there will be a rolling programme of functional strikes that will continue weekly until Royal Mail makes an offer acceptable to the union.
This strike call followed five weeks of secret talks between top Royal Mail managers and CWU leaders, General Secretary Billy Hayes and Dave Ward, CWU Deputy General Secretary responsible for the postal section of the union. During that period CWU members were kept in the dark while Royal Mail managers put in place plans to impose their agenda and develop strike-breaking tactics.
The Royal Mail offer discussed was a charter for management to do anything it wants. Workers could be forced to ‘cover any work that they have been trained to do’. Managers could demand that staff begin and end work any time within two hours of the normal starting and finishing times.
In Royal Mail’s words, this is all geared to ‘succeed in an increasingly competitive environment’ where firms like TNT and DHL have been given the highly-profitable, bulk, business mail and any cowboy courier can make deliveries using a casual, non-union workforce.
Royal Mail is a target for privatisation if its top management can cut jobs, introduce casualisation, slash wages, and, above all, either smash trade unionism, or turn CWU officials into corporatist collaborators in its business plans, policing postal workers.
More than 130,000 CWU members working for Royal Mail know that their jobs, conditions and living standards are at stake in this struggle. Their intransigence in defending their jobs, working conditions, pay and pensions was demonstrated in solid strike action every time the union called action in June and July.
Postal workers know that the top management at Royal Mail are not free agents. Heading a state-owned company, their boss is Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government, which is calling the shots.
They also know they are in the front line of the struggle of all workers in the public sector – National Health Service staff, teachers, lecturers, civil servants, prison officers and local council workers – who all face job losses, pay cuts and privatisation. Civil servants and local authority workers are already balloting on strike action.
It is clear that striking CWU members are fighting for all public sector workers, in particular, and the whole trade union movement. That is why calls for a public sector alliance, that have been heard at union conferences, must be transformed into a reality by other unions organising solidarity strike action with the postal workers, and to win their own struggles.
In every locality councils of action must be set up to coordinate this fight and mobilise ever greater support. There is a week before the CWU begins its national strike action, so there is a week to organise solidarity strike action!
There can be no doubting the determination of postal workers and workers across the public sector to win their struggles and defeat the attacks of the Brown government.
However, the present leadership of the trade unions is actively opposing every struggle against Brown and will engage in any manoeuvre, like meeting employers in secret, to prevent strike action.
That is why the Workers Revolutionary Party is building a new leadership in all the unions to remove and replace these leaders and do whatever is necessary to win, including bringing down the Brown government and replacing it with a workers’ government. Join the WRP today!