YESTERDAY the number two CWU leader Dave Ward was boasting that the super-flexibility deal that the leadership put to the membership and which over 29,000 workers, 34 per cent of the total voters, rejected in the just finished ballot, ‘demonstrates that the union is leading the change agenda’.
This statement lets the cat out of the bag. The union leaders despite their ‘left’ posturing at the last annual conference of the union, after the membership decided to take strike action against Royal Mail’s flexibility plans by a huge majority, actually supported the flexibility proposals from the start. They opted for turning the union into a major force for implementing flexibility change, as Royal Mail’s partner.
They betrayed their members from day one of the struggle.
As Ward said in the union’s statement on the ballot result: ‘The union has always recognised that change is needed.’
However, there are two kinds of change, for the better and for the worse. The changes that will be brought in by the Royal Mail-CWU plan will all be changes for the worse, bringing in super-exploitation of the workers akin to forced labour, wage freezing and wage cutting, and mass redundancies, all leading rapidly along the rocky road to privatisation.
After the strike ballot was massively carried, the CWU leaders embarked on a course of action to avoid a national indefinite strike at all costs, in favour of seeking to wear down their members with partial strikes, and over five weeks of secret talks.
At the end of some three months of struggle, the membership had shown a huge capacity to fight, with the leadership sabotaging all their efforts.
After weeks of secret talks, and after their members had lost hundreds of pounds in wages, and with the cost of living rising fast, the CWU leaders put what were basically the original proposals to ballot.
They were banking that the membership had got the message that the leadership was never going to fight and that there would at least be a few more pounds in their pockets if they settled.
In fact, 29,000 workers voted to reject the deal, in favour of renewing the struggle, showing tremendous determination, and proving that the situation is ripe for removing the current leadership of the CWU and replacing it with leaders who are prepared to fight for the interests of their members.
In their statement the CWU leaders say on the issue of wages: ‘Workers will receive a £175 lump sum to cover the period of April to October, a 5.4 per cent pay rise backdated to 1st October and a further 1.5 per cent in April 2008.’
In fact, the deal agreed on pay is a major con. The £175 is not new money! The 1.5 per cent in 2008 is conditional upon the management agreeing that 100 per cent of their flexibility demands have been delivered. So the 1.5 per cent can be delayed for months, or even years of haggling.
On flexibility, the CWU statement says: ‘Trials on working practices and joint working groups will be launched as a result of the agreement.’
However workers know that there is to be compulsory daily flexibility. The CWU summary says; ‘individuals may be asked and it is not in any shape compulsory.’ But the full agreement says; ‘nor is it about anyone refusing reasonable requests.’ So, who decides what is a reasonable request? The deal is silent on this point – But the membership can answer that – it will be the management.
The management will expect the CWU to help it force flexibility through, and the CWU leaders will oblige – after all the deal turns them into the leaders of the ‘change agenda’, and Royal Mail’s partners.
CWU members must demand a recall conference of the CWU to sack the leaders, and to have an inquiry into all of the secret talks that took place with Royal Mail and the government, and to elect a new and fighting leadership.
Otherwise it will be pensions that will be axed next.