ON MONDAY, it was announced that over 97% of Communication Workers Union (CWU) members working in Royal Mail had voted for national strike action in defence of their pay, conditions, pensions and the drive by management to completely break up the postal service.
This massive vote, on the back of an unprecedented 76% turn out, is a clear signal that postal workers are not just prepared to fight but eager to take on a management that has made no secret of its desire to cut wages, cut staff and impose intolerable speed-up on the workforce.
In addition, Royal Mail management, headed by the recently appointed CEO Rico Back, plans to sell off the profitable parcel delivery service and run what remains into the ground.
Back was appointed as CEO last year to replace the previous boss Moya Greene.
Greene, herself, had been brought in to drive through the Tory privatisation of Royal Mail in 2013; previously she had overseen the privatisation of the Canadian postal service.
She has now been replaced by Back who was boss of Royal Mail’s European parcel business GLS. At GLS, Back was responsible for a regime where the workforce were classified as ‘self-employed’ and forced to work excessive hours for a pittance in pay.
Frontline staff worked up to 14-hour days without a break for as little as 3 Euros an hour. Back was given a massive £6 million ‘golden hello’ plus an annual salary worth up to £2.7 million in order to carry out the same gig economy regime in Royal Mail.
It will be a regime of bogus self employment, low pay and a workforce that is driven by excessive productivity demands through constant electronic monitoring.
Back’s first decision was to tear up the ‘four pillars’ agreement that the CWU leadership believed would safeguard their members’ pay, pension rights and that would hold out the possibility of the company agreeing to a reduction in the working week.
This agreement also pledged that Royal Mail would uphold its Universal Service Obligation which commits the service to operate in all parts of Britain at a standard rate and not just pick and choose where it delivers to on the basis of profitability.
In 2013 CWU members voted by an equally overwhelming 96% majority for action against Tory privatisation of Royal Mail.
With the membership more than ready to fight and with the entire working class behind them the then leadership of the CWU capitulated without a fight, preferring surrender to fighting the Tories.
They accepted privatisation and instead assured CWU members that this would not mean the end of the postal service and that the union would be able to negotiate improvements to pay and conditions in a privatised service.
Today, the reality of privatisation has hit home with a vengeance as cast iron agreements are torn up by a management determined to flog off any part of the business that makes a profit like parcel delivery and run the rest of the postal service into the ground.
At the same time, they will turn CWU members into the postal equivalent of Uber drivers or Amazon workers with no rights while the hedge fund speculators will pile in to gouge millions in profit from another bargain basement sale.
CWU members must insist that there can be no repeat of the betrayal carried out by the leadership over the privatisation vote.
CWU members must demand that the leadership immediately implement this vote and call a national all-out strike with the central demand to kick out Royal Mail bosses and renationalise the postal service under the management of workers.
This will win the overwhelming support of the entire working class who are rising up against a capitalist system that enriches bosses and shareholders at the expense of workers’ pay and rights.
The demand of the CWU must be for the TUC to organise a general strike to bring down the government and bring in a workers government that will expropriate the bosses, bankers and hedge fund owners, and place all services and major industries, along with the banks, under the management of the working class as part of a planned socialist economy.