CWU considering ‘national industrial ballot’ – if no progress made on national talks

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Pickets at the Hampstead Delivery Office during the last national strike in October 2010
Pickets at the Hampstead Delivery Office during the last national strike in October 2010

A COMMUNICATION Workers Union (CWU) report to its Postal Policy Forum on ‘National Talks – The Future of the Royal Mail Group’, has told branches to be prepared for a national strike ballot.

The report warns that ‘the new management structure is now more centrally led and command and control based than ever . . . .

‘What has transpired since is a far more aggressive approach from the Company and demands are being made in too many locations that go way beyond any National Agreement.’

The Current Situation

‘It would be difficult for anybody who has followed recent events not to acknowledge that at some point in the coming weeks and months the differences that have emerged between us, the Company and the Government are bound to widen and look set to result in industrial conflict. There are justifiable reasons for this.

‘Despite our best efforts to resolve outstanding revisions associated with the Business Transformation Agreement, there are still a very significant number of offices where revisions are not working and according to Royal Mail a further 40% of Delivery Offices have yet to complete all aspects of transformation.

‘There is a major question mark over whether offices are receiving the benefits we envisaged and lump sums remain outstanding in many units. The Union must address these matters immediately.

‘The Company has announced it is now a parcels business that just manages the decline in letters. It is telling the workforce that it has a strategy for parcel and packet growth, but has failed to meaningfully involve the Union in this debate.

‘The BT Agreement is nearing its end and in any case does not address the direction the company is now taking. The reality is Royal Mail’s thinking has moved on and we no longer have a shared vision of modernisation.

‘They now appear to be pursuing a very different business plan to that which the Business Transformation Agreement dealt with.

‘The Company is actively preparing for and promoting privatisation in the workplace.

‘The CWU has already called for a review of the operational work plan and there is a sound argument that Royal Mail’s current approach, which seems to keep pushing the delivery of mail further and further backwards, is not going to build a platform for growth in Royal Mail and is allowing competitors to steal a march.

‘This is also having a detrimental impact on start times, attendance patterns/duty structures and the commitment to maintain full time jobs, particularly in delivery.

‘The climate for pay negotiations will be difficult given the Company’s focus on increasing profit margins for privatisation, the Regulators demands for higher efficiency and the general state of the economy.

‘A major clash over 2013 pay and reward now seems inevitable. (News Line emphasis)

‘The Company continues to place unacceptable pressure on delivery employees. This is directly linked to an oppressive managerial culture, relentless efficiency demands, failed revisions and chaotic daily lapsing and absorption.

‘There is a massive question mark over the ability of managers, at all levels, to deal with the human element involved in major change.

‘In too many locations this pressure has become intolerable and is now affecting CWU members’ quality of life, a concern highlighted in the recent Bullying and Harassment survey.

‘The Company has failed to seriously embrace or invest in improving relationships and developing a mutual interest culture.

‘The aforementioned accurately summarises the current position and nobody could seriously argue that the Union were not within our rights to respond to this.

CWU Response

‘The Union cannot ignore the current situation and must respond in a proportionate and decisive manner.

‘We are proposing the following course of action: That National talks be prioritised as follows.

‘That Royal Mail must agree to immediate reinvestment as part of a plan to put right all failing Business Transformation revisions.

‘That Royal Mail must agree a plan to resolve all outstanding Business Transformation issues, including revisions, payment of lump sums and engineering workload etc.

‘That Royal Mail must agree a plan that addresses the unacceptable managerial pressures placed on delivery employees that is contributing to an emerging culture of bullying and harassment. This should also cover managerial lapsing, absorption and unrealistic performance targets/budgetary savings.

‘That Royal Mail must agree a new approach to processing including revision procedures for mail centres, design, standard operating procedures and refreshing the rationalisation agreement.

‘This must also confirm that Quality of Service is being maintained (particularly End to End) and resourcing models are in line with National Agreements. The Company must accept that there will be a pause on all mail centre closures until a full review has been completed and talks have satisfactorily progressed on their strategy to deal with parcel and packet growth.

‘That a formal audit of the current BT Agreement be completed and an action plan put in place to ensure compliance with all the principles agreed, including 75/25 full time/part time mix, 1 in 4 Saturdays off and full delivery of the associated benefits due to CWU members.

‘That Royal Mail must agree a new settlement which covers all aspects of the Company’s future strategy including:-

Resourcing models that build on the principles agreed in the recently extended Job Security Agreement.

‘The operational networks that will be used for growth in packets and parcels. It is now essential that we shape the company’s new strategy, including the future of parcels, packets, letters and door to door.

‘Furthermore, that we reach agreement on its impact on operational networks, resourcing models, jobs and the long term employment security and living standards of our members.

A new overall operational work plan that will provide an infrastructure to deal with growth in d2d and new products/services within the letters business.

‘The new operational work plan to also cover MPU’s/CSS machines and the impact on delivery jobs and duty structures.

A settlement on an improved pay and reward package due to CWU members in April 2013.

‘New incentive and productivity arrangements to deal with ongoing change, as well as the replacement for Colleagueshare.

‘Until such time as satisfactory progress has been made on the aforementioned agenda for national talks, there will be no support for any new local efficiency/budgetary savings, or any further mail centre or RDC rationalisation.

‘The only exception to this will be any efficiency improvements arising directly from Business Transformation revisions that have yet to be introduced or completed.

‘If satisfactory progress is not made on the CWU agenda for national talks by the time of General Conference (April 21st), or there is sufficient evidence of managerial executive action, then the Union will consider implementing a national industrial action ballot. (News Line emphasis)

‘The above mentioned policy will be communicated to all CWU members’ home addresses and through workplace meetings.

‘The Postal Executive will put in place an appropriate report back mechanism to enable Branches to consider whether or not satisfactory progress has been made in national talks.

Conclusion

‘The position we are asking CWU Branches to endorse is a justifiable response to the recent actions of the Company and the developing position on privatisation.

‘The Union will continue to be clear to the membership that the dynamics surrounding the postal industry means change must continue to evolve if we are to create sustainable jobs and a successful company.

‘We recognise this will involve a different traffic mix and we will support a strategy for growth that has genuine investment in the workforce.

‘However, the crucial debate, as always, is how we change and what we are changing to. On this aspect we no longer have a shared vision of modernisation and there are legitimate differences with the company.

‘The Business Transformation Agreement is now drawing to a conclusion and we must prepare for a new settlement that will shape the future strategy of the business, resolve the unacceptable pressures on delivery employees and secure an improved pay and reward package from April 2013.’