At 5.20pm yesterday CWU leaders Dave Ward and Billy Hayes declared that the two days’ strike action today and tomorrow were going ahead and new strike dates will be fixed later this week.
Both leaders accused Peter Mandelson, Adam Crozier and Mark Higson of sabotaging an agreement that had been made in negotiations on Tuesday night when Royal Mail negotiators agreed to stop imposing changes so that negotiations could take place.
Dave Ward revealed that the CWU received a letter on Wednesday morning which was the exact opposite to what had been agreed the night before, effectively ensuring that the strike action would take place.
He said Royal Mail negotiators had agreed to pull back from imposing changes.
But Royal Mail Letters Managing Director Mark Higson’s letter said Royal Mail is pressing ahead with changes.
Ward said: ‘I believe the people inside were genuine but the people outside were vetoing what was agreed.’
Ward said: ‘Every time it appeared to us we made some progress in negotiations, external forces intervened to undermine that progress.’
He added: ‘There were three people who claimed they have been talking to us.
‘None of whom have been in any meeting – Mark Higson, Adam Crozier and Peter Mandelson.
‘It’s been deliberately choreographed in a way that tells us the government and Royal Mail are working hand in hand.’
He cited last week’s leaked Royal Mail document ‘that indicated that ‘Royal Mail wanted a deal on their terms and their terms alone.’
Ward and Hayes said Peter Mandelson was paying back the CWU for the defeat of Royal Mail privatisation.
Hayes called Mandelson ‘the minister without responsibility’, adding Mandelson had ignored every attempt he had made to contact the Business Secretary.
Ward said that Mandelson had earlier told him he had lost confidence in the Royal Mail Board.
‘He offered to take us to meet the chief executive of TNT, saying the only way relations would improve is if we were to accept privatisation.’
Hayes said the union had been ‘left with no alternative but to stand up for the postal service, to stand up for the postmen and post women who deliver your mail six days a week.’
He added: ‘we’re happy for an independent party to look at our record against Royal Mail’s record.
‘I make a public offer to go to ACAS without any pre-conditions.
‘But Royal mail wants to cherry pick what it agrees to.
‘We want to meet the government and directors.’
Hayes said the ‘government can’t walk away from this dispute’.
He was asked about the temporary workers being hired ‘to do your work’ to clear the backlog.
Hayes said the union was preparing ‘to test the use of temporary workers in the High Court, we’ve taken legal counsel, we believe it’s illegal’
He pointed out ‘Mandelson is the minister responsible for agency workers, he’s the minister responsible for ACAS’.
In answer to a further question, Hayes and Ward said they were still prepared to meet Crozier or Mandelson at ACAS without pre-conditions.
Mick Fitzmaurice, CWU Branch Secretary for Northamptonshire told News Line, ‘It is shocking that Royal Mail is more determined to break the postal strikes using “casuals” than it is to resolve the many serious issues which have led to this situation.
‘Postal workers go through weeks of training when first employed by Royal Mail and many stringent security checks are carried out to ensure that they do not have criminal backgrounds and that they can legitimately work in the UK.
‘Packets will undoubtedly be damaged if they are not loaded, unloaded or sorted correctly and we have already encountered some very serious incidents at NDC where lorry drivers have driven off on red lights unknowingly with somebody still in the back loading the vehicle.
‘Using casuals will be a most cynical way to avoid resolving the industrial unrest in Royal Mail and will put the customers’ mail at extreme risk of damage, loss or theft.
‘We already know that these casuals will be paid the minimum wage and those already hired in Bristol have had no criminal records checked prior to employment.’