Postal workers across the country are up in arms demanding their union, the CWU, proceeds to immediately name strike dates after Royal Mail’s decision to press ahead with imposing draconian attacks on pay, jobs, conditions and pensions.
Communication Workers Union (CWU) branches say the ‘modernisation’ programme is completely unacceptable and is an ‘absolute disgrace’.
They have let their national leaders know at a reps briefing on Thursday that ‘our members will support forthcoming industrial action’.
Branches insisted that Royal Mail bosses have ‘no intention of concluding an acceptable agreement and the last four weeks (of secret talks between CWU leaders and management) have been a complete waste of time’.
Local CWU officers are demanding ‘that any forthcoming actions should not be called off unless an agreement is secured which is acceptable to the members.’
In line with the reps’ comments, a CWU Postal Executive letter to branches has said that the ‘Postal Executive unanimously rejected Royal Mail’s latest offer.’
The letter added: ‘We have agreed in principle to reactivate national strike action in September.
‘This is in response to Royal Mail’s decision to push ahead with imposed change.’
Royal Mail has now decided that the date of imposition will be October 8th.
Indicating it is determined to proceed with 40,000 job cuts, the company says: ‘The current arrangement for managing surpluses are not appropriate for a commercial organisation making changes at the speed required in Royal Mail.
‘From April 2008, the MTSF (Managing the Surplus Framework) agreement will no longer apply to CWU represented grades in Royal Mail Letters and will be replaced with a process that manages headcount in a commercial but sensitive way.’
At the centre of the Royal Mail assault is its ‘flexible working’ programme.
Drivers and other employees will be told to take parts of postal workers’ walks, and all grades will be required to cover for absences.
Workers in sorting offices will be told to cover for each other and to come in earlier when required to deal with mail left over from the day before.
Royal Mail adds that there will be ‘different hours in winter and summer to reflect the seasonal changes in volume’.
It ‘will introduce more flexible employment contracts to support a range of new approaches such as seasonal and term time working’.
Managers will be giving just a week’s notice to workers of changes in their starting time – which can be two hours earlier or later.
Workers will be expected to work an average of 40 hours a week but with ‘different lengths of attendance on differing days of week’.
Royal Mail says this could be ‘four day working, nine day fortnights, five weeks on and one week off etc’.
It says that ‘we will introduce banked or annualised hours’ and to facilitate this ‘we will migrate to monthly pay by March 2008’.
It adds: ‘Annualised hours scheme will be phased in from April 2008.’
The Royal Mail Pension Plan will be closed to new entrants and all pensions will be calculated on the basis of average not final salaries.
The retirement age will be upped from 60 to 65 and new entrants will be on ‘defined’ pensions with ‘a choice of contribution levels’.
The rejected package includes promises of a 6.7 per cent increase in pay over two years which includes bonuses based on Group profits.
The Employee Share of Savings Scheme (estimated as holding £23.5m) is being closed down and ‘the pot used as a contribution to the ongoing pay rise beyond April 2008’.
Royal Mail is ending night shifts at delivery offices which will cost workers around £80 a week in lost shift allowances, and introducing ‘efficient’ weekend working at delivery and sorting offices which will see workers lose between £60 and £120 a week.
It is also cutting back on delivery rounds in the summer months.
Royal Mail warns that an individual’s performance will be judged on ‘conduct, attendance and job performance’.
Warning there will be a new industrial relations, Royal Mail says ‘this means working with a progressive and committed union at national level’ and ‘open and honest conversations with our staff’.
It warns there will be a new, ‘simpler’, IR Framework which ‘recognises that change, flexibility and efficiency must be the norm’.
The new framework will ‘also revise union facilities and release arrangements’.
CWU members consider that these changes will mean the end of the CWU.