THE announcement by the CWU of a programme of two 48-hour national strikes across all sections of Royal Mail, along with a programme of rolling strikes, is a huge blow against the Royal Mail management and its main supporter, the Brown government.
It is a big victory for the determination of the union’s members not to allow the destruction of their terms and conditions of service and the permanent disabling of their union.
This determination of the membership has exposed and undermined the CWU’s top leaders who have spent the last five weeks locked in secret talks with Royal Mail aimed at burying the dispute and forcing the Royal Mail plan onto the workers.
Royal Mail gleefully showed in their proposals document that CWU leaders, Hayes and Ward, had virtually agreed to the Royal Mail proposals, including complete flexibility of working, selling pension rights for new entrants and an industrial framework agreement that spelt the end for the union.
The intransigence of Royal Mail has been met with the intransigence of its workforce that is determined to fight.
Having said that, it is also clear that the policy of the leadership to force Royal Mail back to the negotiating table through 48-hour stoppages and a rolling programme of strike action, which they say will run up to Christmas, will not win the struggle.
Behind Royal Mail stands the Brown government and its determination that the economic crisis be dumped squarely on the backs of the working class.
For postal workers this means that speed-up, cuts in pay and conditions and total flexibility is not optional, as far as the government or management are concerned.
The scene is now set for an all-out confrontation between postal workers and management.
It’s clear that Royal Mail will not permit the union to dictate the pace of industrial action and they are quite likely to force a national stoppage and provoke a showdown.
Under these conditions, a leadership which still believes that compromise is possible and that strikes are only a means of securing more and more talks, is totally incapable of leading, and is a liability.
The issue before postal workers is not further talks, it is to wage an all-out struggle to defend their rights and jobs and to win that struggle.
A successful struggle can only be based on a recognition that this is not just an industrial dispute but a political struggle against this Brown government.
In this struggle, unity with other public sector workers who face the same attacks is absolutely essential.
There must be a programme of joint action through a public sector alliance to defend the whole of the public sector. This is already being called for by workers throughout the public sector. Now the demand must be that the union leaders make such an alliance.
A public sector alliance must take the lead in calling a general strike throughout the public sector and calling for support from the whole of the working class in a general strike that will remove this Brown government and replace it with a workers government that bases itself on socialist policies.
Central to the organisation of the general strike must be the building of Councils of Action in every locality to unite trade unionists and the entire community to defend the strikes and occupations that are essential parts of the struggle today.
Given that the leadership of the trade unions is hostile to any struggle that confronts the Brown government, the issue of replacing them is a vital question for the working class.
No army, no matter how strong, can win when it is led by leaders who are not only convinced that victory is impossible, but who are determined to prove it by working for defeat.
This is the situation the trade union movement faces today. These leaders must be removed and replaced with those who are prepared to do whatever is necessary, including bringing down this government. Only this will assure victory for postal workers and the entire working class.