ON TUESDAY, postal workers delivered a massive 94.5% YES vote to strike in defence of their jobs, pay and conditions and the very existence of Royal Mail as a public service.
The response of the leadership of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) was immediate – they overturned this massive mandate for strike action and replaced it with a call for unity with the employer and the Tory government.
In a statement, Dave Ward (CWU General Secretary) stated the reason for ignoring this overwhelming ballot result was because: ‘We want the public we serve, the government and shareholders to know that we want to set aside our differences with Royal Mail and, subject to prioritising the health and safety of our members, we want postal workers to become an additional emergency service in the UK.’
Ward and his postal deputy Terry Pullinger concluded this statement saying: ‘We will be writing to the Prime Minister to gain the government’s support for this approach. In the meantime, we will meet with the company tomorrow to move this proposal forward.’
Three times in less than three years, postal workers have voted by similar overwhelming numbers for strike action and each time the leadership of the CWU has found reasons to spurn these mandates and retreat rather than fight.
Late last year, the excuse was the High Court ruling the ballot unlawful. Now they are grasping at the coronavirus epidemic, not just to refuse to take action but to offer the union up as a willing partner to the bosses and the Tories in rescuing British capitalism from the economic crash.
They have also been quick to use coronavirus to cancel this year’s annual CWU conference due in April, ensuring that there can be no challenge to their actions and their treacherous offer of collusion with the bosses and Tories.
This is in line with the position being taken by the TUC and other union leaders, along with the Labour Party.
All have responded to Johnson’s call for ‘unity’ in the face of a national ‘catastrophe’ and are prepared to sink any differences with a government that has openly declared its intention to smash the unions by making strike action illegal.
These union and Labour Party leaders are pleading for seats in some kind of national government. In any national government they would play the role of a critical safety valve for workers’ anger at the Tory drive to protect capitalism at the expense of the working class.
This week, the Tory chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a £330 billion bailout for big business along with a £20 billion in tax breaks, grants and compensation for companies that have to pay statutory sick rates to workers laid off by the virus.
Johnson said he and Sunak were acting ‘like any wartime government’ by doing ‘whatever it takes to support our economy’. In all this multi-billion pound bailout there was absolutely nothing for the working class except the promise to fund statutory sick pay – a derisory £94.25 a week.
In 2008, the government handed the banks £850 billion to stop them going bust under impact of the financial crash – this was paid for by the working class through ten years of savage Tory austerity cuts that decimated the NHS and left it completely unable to cope with coronavirus.
There has been NO mass testing, not even for medical staff, no billions to re-open hospitals and wards closed by the Tories, just limitless billions to bail out the bosses and bankers while the working class is left to die at home.
There is a war going on – and it is the class war to force the working class to pay the price for the crisis of capitalism.
This is the policy being ruthlessly pursued by the Tories. This is the war that the trade union and Labour leaders are so shamelessly supporting, and helping by the CWU cancelling workers’ decisions to strike and even cancelling the union’s annual conference that was scheduled to take place on April 20th.
Postal workers must remove this leadership, and go ahead with their conference, even if it is to just set the date for their massive strike action. The strike must then be turned into a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government!