LAST Wednesday postal workers delivered a massive vote in favour of strike action to defend their jobs, terms and conditions, and for a pay increase.
The result, 4-to-1 for industrial action, came two days after the newly privatised Royal Mail had its shares officially floated on the stock market – shares that, immediately trading opened, shot up by 48% more than the government sold them for.
CWU deputy General Secretary Dave Ward assured members ‘The battle is not over’, but he was not referring to the battle against privatisation, instead, he was talking about the battle to preserve jobs, pay and conditions after the sell-off.
Under the government privatisation deal, postal workers’ terms are supposed to be ‘guaranteed’ for three years. The CWU leadership is now making a great play of taking strike action to secure a deal for much longer.
The fact is that the battle against privatisation was over long ago as far as the leadership of the CWU is concerned.
At this year’s CWU conference, both Ward and the General Secretary, Billy Hayes, did their best to promote the idea that a ballot for strike action to stop privatisation would take place.
They supported a motion calling for a consultative ballot over boycotting the delivery of competitors’ mail, with the promise that strike action over a boycott would be the same as a strike against privatisation.
The consultative ballot recorded a massive vote of 92% in favour of strike action over the boycott, and 96% voting to fight privatisation.
Immediately, Hayes and Ward ran a mile from any fight, surrendering before battle was even engaged rather than risk breaking the anti-union laws.
Having completely capitulated on the fight against privatisation and accepting it as a ‘done deal’, they then called a strike ballot on the terms and conditions after the sell-off.
This ballot took place in October when it was widely known that the government intended to privatise Royal Mail that month – all Vince Cable had to do was juggle the dates to ensure that any vote came after the event.
For Hayes and Ward to claim that they will lead any kind of fight to preserve terms and conditions under the newly privatised Royal Mail is beyond belief given their record of evasion and capitulation.
Already, Cable has made it clear that not only will terms and conditions only be guaranteed for three years but also that this extends to union recognition.
The CWU is in a fight for its very existence as a union under privatisation.
This threat was made clear by the boss of Royal Mail, Moya Greene, last week.
Greene – who was imported from Canada where she had a record of driving through privatisation, and of union busting – wrote to every postal worker offering £300 for anyone prepared to cross a picket line.
In addition to offering a ‘scab bonus’ she went on TV news and said: ‘We need to start thinking about what sort of protections do we need as a company from our people.’
The sort of protection Greene wants are laws to make strikes completely illegal, probably forcing the unemployed to act as scabs or lose their Jobseekers allowance.
The response of the CWU leaders to meet this open declaration of war by calling a one-day national strike on the 4th November is completely inadequate.
Postal workers, having proved time and again their determination and willingness to fight the government and its privatisation plans, must now demand that the CWU call an emergency conference to sack the leadership of Hayes and Ward and replace them with leaders prepared to take indefinite strike action in defence of jobs and conditions, and demand that the TUC call a general strike to kick out this government and replace it with a workers government that will stop all privatisation and re-nationalise every privatised service.