Postal Workers are to be balloted soon on the new deal negotiated by their Union leaders.
This Agreement called Business Transformation 2010 and Beyond, has been three months in the making.
Your readers will no doubt, have been following the ongoing struggle of CWU members as they fought a long series of strikes towards the end of 2009.
The strikes were over a whole range of issues from the threat of more redundancies to speed up and the arbitrary increasing of workload for delivery postal workers, the ongoing crisis in the pension fund, and last, but not least, the vicious union busting attempts of Royal Mail to impose their agenda on the postal workers.
CWU members up and down the length of Britain demonstrated their determination to defend their terms and conditions of service, their jobs and most importantly, to defend the CWU as an independent Trade Union.
None more so than the CWU members in London who bore the brunt of management attacks.
Just as CWU members felt they were beginning to win the dispute, with the threat that strikes would go on into the Christmas period, our Union leaders called off the strikes.
This decision came as a shock to most postal workers.
Why, when our position was getting stronger, did our Union leaders call off the strikes?
To give a glimpse of the potential, if the strikes continued, you just have to look at the situation that developed in early December.
Whole swathes of the south east of England were hit by snow storms and some of the coldest weather for 30 years.
Royal Mail in common with every section of society was hit bad.
It could not have come at a worse time.
The Christmas post was building up, yet post boxes could not be emptied as roads were blocked, deliveries could not go out because of the treacherous conditions under foot, vans were breaking down or becoming stuck.
You could visibly see the management getting older by the hour.
Only with Herculean efforts by postal workers, sometimes ignoring health and safety recommendations, did the Christmas post get delivered.
Every CWU member knows that without their co-operation and dedication to the public, it would all grind to a halt.
The strikes were called off.
The CWU and Royal Mail entered negotiations under the auspices of ACAS chaired by Roger Poole.
After a few weeks this produced an interim agreement.
The main thrust of the interim agreement was management would withdraw their unagreed impositions of new duty structures and there would be no victimisations of CWU activists; the CWU, in turn, would suspend the calling of more strikes, while a new more comprehensive deal was negotiated.
It is to that agreement to which I will concentrate the remainder of this letter.
Now, the Post Office used to be a Public Service, its job was to deliver letters, packets and parcels amongst other services to every household in Britain.
This was and still is done, come rain, wind or shine. For over 150 years people got used to seeing the postman or woman delivering early in the morning come what may.
Postal workers were renowned for their dedication to the Post Office and their customers.
The job is not and never was well paid.
Most postal workers put up with the low pay because the job had other benefits, namely, a decent pension and an almost non-existent threat of redundancy.
Because of the low pay and, no doubt, that very same rain, wind and shine accompanied by the early starts, that the Post Office for decades found it difficult to recruit staff.
Consequently postal workers performed high levels of overtime to boost up their pay.
Because the Post Office had a monopoly on the delivery of all items posted under a £1 it had a huge turnover of money, (£9billion at its zenith), but because it was, and still is, a very labour-intensive industry, a large portion of that turnover was spent in employees wages or salaries.
But greedy eyes were looking at that huge turnover of money, and they wanted it.
The first government to try to privatise the Post Office was Thatcher’s.
Such was the affection with which the general public held the Post Office, they were forced to abandon the plan.
The CWU led a campaign which defeated the Tories’ attempts to sell the Post Office to their friends for a song.
For this, the CWU were never forgiven.
In those days we had the support of Labour Party – how times have changed!
As recently as two years ago Mandelson tried again, to sell off the Post Office, and again, because the CWU led a campaign against it, gathering support from the public, MPs and constituency Labour Parties, they were forced to call it off for fear of losing their majority in parliament.
So the CWU has a proud tradition of fighting against attempts to privatise the Post Office wherever they come from.
This has not stopped the Government from turning the Post Office into a business, which has to make a profit at all costs.
These costs are a reduction in services to the public and a wholesale attack on the CWU and its members’ terms and conditions.
Over the last five years 60,000 jobs have been lost.
Those that are left are subject to speed-up and overloading.
All through these trying times CWU members held fast to the hope that the Post Office would return to being a Public Service.
So it must come as a surprise to them, that their leaders have accepted the Royal Mail agenda.
All through the printed pages of the new agreement is the acceptance of Royal Mail as a company, as a business which must survive.
The partnership which the agreement promises to be based on is one where Royal Mail is in competition with every other private operator who has been allowed to cherry pick the best parts of Royal Mail business.
It is one thing for a trade union having to operate in a privatised ex-public service, but it is a completely different one from accepting it.
The NUR have to operate within a privatised rail network, but they a least continually call for its re-nationalisation.
Permeating the whole agreement is the promise that if the CWU are good little boys and girls they will be allowed to be part of the decision-making process. It does not say that the CWU will have a veto on any decisions that they feel their members cannot stomach.
But presumably these situations cannot arise, because if you really want to represent your members and be part of the decision makers, you have to make your mind up, you cannot be both.
The reality is that the CWU is to be turned into a lower tier of management, forcing through change (for the good of the company of course).
Gone is the CWU fighting for its members against an Anti-Union employer; the leopard has changed its spots, or has it?
I feel I must give a least one quote from the agreement which is a contradiction in terms: page 4 para 9 says ‘Modernisation means there will be a reduction in overall number of employees, but we will work together to ensure that modernisation brings about . . .’
And in the very next line it continues ‘. . . more rewarding employment with better long-term prospects for the workforce’.
That will be comforting for those thrown into poverty, that that diminishing band who are left have a more rewarding employment.
The time has come for Hayes and Ward to go: they should resign now with any other PEC members who agreed this rotten deal.
CWU members must elect new leaders who differ in all respects to the current leadership, who will not betray their members for a cosy relationship with Royal Mail management, who will not accept that the Post Office is a company and business for ever.
Twice now Hayes and Ward have led us out on strike, only to disappoint their members with the results of their negotiations.
While I could go on at length about this sellout agreement I feel that all CWU members should read it for themselves.
Then ask yourself: ‘Did I go on strike for this?’
I believe when we are given the opportunity, we should cast a resounding NO to this betrayal of all which we fought for.
As I write this letter 250,000 civil servants are on strike to defend their terms and conditions of employment and to defend their pension entitlements; all workers are under attack.
It surely is logical that we all fight together.
We must build a public sector workers alliance to defend jobs and services.
We must have a general strike to bring down this or any other government that continues to attack jobs and services.
• Keep the CWU as an independent Trade Union
• Defend every job
• Restore the Post Office as a public service
• Restore the letter monopoly
• Hayes and Ward resign now
• Elect new leaders for the CWU.