THE two-day national meeting of postal workers representatives at the union’s Policy Forum this week demonstrated that CWU members have gone way beyond their leadership in their determination to fight privatisation and defeat the government.
This was made clear on the first day of the forum when they defied the union’s Postal Executive and demanded that the CWU withdraw all co-operation from management’s World Class Mails (WCM) programme – a fancy name for time and motion studies designed to speed up mail delivery by piling more and more work on fewer and fewer staff.
Quite rightly, CWU members have seen that co-operation with management on this scheme has only resulted in speed-up, job losses and fattening up Royal Mail for privatisation.
While the membership are clear in demanding complete withdrawal of union co-operation, the Postal Executive were furious, with their spokesman claiming that co-operation was a tactical issue, implying that if the union is not involved in it, it will go ahead anyway and the union will be left sidelined and powerless.
This has long been the argument of the trade union bureaucracy for justifying their involvement in such treacherous co-operation. As one delegate pointed out, the union’s participation in the WCM has produced no benefits for the members in terms of jobs and conditions. All it has done is blur the union’s position on fighting for the rights of the membership.
What the delegates demanded is a clear stand from the union leadership on the fight for jobs, and against privatisation.
However, the CWU leaders consistently fudge the entire issue of taking strike action to defeat the government and its privatisation plans.
Accordingly on the second day, the forum was presented with, and passed unanimously, the Executive’s recommendation for a national strike ballot of Royal Mail workers if the union is unable to secure full protection of terms and conditions for up to ten years, that Royal Mail would remain an End to End service provider, and there would be no break up of the company or sale of individual functions.
With the coalition driving relentlessly forward their plan to implement the privatisation of Royal Mail by this autumn, it is impossible for the union to secure any agreement on these issues that is worth the paper it is printed on.
As one delegate quite rightly said: ‘Right now we need to be saying privatisation, no way. Amendments that say what happens if we do get privatised are inappropriate. We need to be saying no way is this industry going to be privatised.’
It is this clear, bold statement, that the CWU is not just opposed to privatisation in words but is prepared to take national strike action to defeat it with deeds, that is deliberately missing from all the Postal Executive statements and resolutions.
The reason for this is not hard to fathom. The CWU leadership of Hayes and Ward is mortally terrified of starting a fight against privatisation that will inevitably entail a fight against the coalition government.
Any strike against the official government policy of privatising the Royal Mail would immediately be declared illegal by the Tory anti-union courts. Because the CWU leadership is not prepared to defy the capitalist law, they allow their members to fly blind into the storm, knowing that privatisation will see their members’ livelihoods wrecked and Royal Mail destroyed as a public service, not to mention the union being smashed up.
Anything rather than risk sequestration and fines.
But whatever the wishes of the leadership, there is no escaping the fact that a collision between postal workers and the government is inevitable.
In this fight, the issue of leadership of the CWU will be crucial. Only a leadership that is prepared to break the anti-union laws, call an all-out national strike against the government and its privatisation plans, and is prepared to demand that the TUC call all its members out in a general strike to bring down the government, can take postal workers to victory.
The CWU needs a new leadership prepared to do everything that is necessary to defeat the massive threat that is privatisation. The WRP leads the fight for this kind of leadership in the trade unions. Join it and build it today!