THE CWU Conference last Wednesday backed two emergency motions from the postal executive calling on the government to remove the threat of privatisation, facilitate a moratorium between Royal Mail (RM) and the CWU and engage in negotiations over the future of the company.
Proposing the first resolution, deputy general secretary Dave Ward declared that the focus will be on an alternative business model, pensions, regulation, industrial relations and colleague share. ‘We have got a brand new policy that we think can transform RM,’ said Ward.
Seconding, Ray Ellis, assistant secretary, called on the government to accept responsibility for the RM pension deficit and also stressed the need to establish a sustainable business model for RM that could survive a change of government next May.
Introducing the next motion, Ward urged members to back the union proposals for a three-month moratorium on industrial action at a time of maximum vulnerability for both the government and RM management.
The resolution offers a three month-moratorium on industrial action in exchange for a similar commitment from the company over executive action, which the union feels will provide a useful ‘cooling-off’ period, during which both parties can talk seriously over a joint RM/CWU vision of what modernisation really means and resolution of outstanding industrial issues.
Failure to act on this agenda by July 2 will result in a timetable for nationwide industrial action ballots.
Ward pointed to the recent 91 per cent Yes vote for strike action in London, arguing that this vote and others around the country indicated the strength of feeling among members, should talks fail. ‘We are definitely upping the ante for management,’ said Ward.
Seconding, assistant secretary Terry Pullinger declared that, if RM rejects the proposal then the CWU have to act. ‘Our members built this industry and have earned the right to shape this industry in the future,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the government is insisting it will press ahead with the part-privatisation of Royal Mail, despite fresh demands by Labour MPs to drop the idea.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson maintains the change has to take place, so the industry can survive.
Tory spokesman Ken Clarke said pushing the plan through was the ‘acid test’ of a ‘lame duck’ government’s authority.
The scene has therefore been set for a battle.
Postal workers are angry at the Brown government and the Royal Mail who have destroyed their final salary pension scheme, robbing them of thousands of pounds per member, frozen their wages, destroyed their conditions of service making the job unbearable, and are now poised to part-privatise the industry, terminating tens of thousands of jobs.
There is no way that the government or the Royal Mail will halt their privatisation and other plans, including the closure of Mail Centres.
The government will bank on the fact that the CWU leaders are serial quitters, and that they will run away from an indefinite all-out strike against the government.
New CWU leaders need to come forward now, in every area.
Postal workers must insist that there is one national ballot for indefinite strike action on July 3, and that the CWU leaders must at once call on all public sector unions and all TUC trade unions to take strike action with them.
To win the action, the CWU membership must be prepared to change their leaders when they weaken, while the CWU must be prepared to bring down the Brown government and bring in a workers’ government that will halt the privatisation programme and bring in socialist policies to defend workers’ wages, jobs and basic rights.