‘THE EXISTENCE OF THE CWU IS AT STAKE’ – CWU calls national ballot for strike action

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Confident pickets at Whitechapel – determined to defend the service
Confident pickets at Whitechapel – determined to defend the service

CWU leaders Billy Hayes and Dave Ward announced the timetable for a national postal strike ballot to a meeting of 500 Communication Workers Union representatives from around the country yesterday.

At the briefing meeting at Friends Meeting House, central London, they announced the ballot would commence on September 9 and conclude on September 23.

Addressing the meeting, CWU Deputy-General Secretary Dave Ward said: ‘We’ve reached the point where we have had to call a national ballot as a result of Royal Mail’s actions.

‘We have gone to some lengths to avoid a national dispute.

‘We wrote to Royal Mail after the Hooper Report offering talks on modernisation and unagreed duty changes, but they were rejected.

‘We offered them a three-month no-strike moratorium, but this was rejected by Royal Mail.’

He thanked the membership for their tremendous campaign against privatisation.

He added: ‘We require a Labour government to take action.

‘We’ve gone into a dispute about the fundamental relationship with the employer.

‘Also, we are concerned about the £10-18 billion pension fund deficit.’

He concluded: ‘We are in the biggest fight we have ever been involved in. The very existence of the CWU is at stake.’

CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes said: ‘They want to sideline the CWU.

‘We are in a situation where we have to call a national dispute because the Labour government has washed its hands of responsibility towards Royal Mail.

‘We are in a coalition with the Mail Users Association to defend services.

‘This is a national dispute. We have no truck with people who say it’s all about London practices.’

Terry Pullinger, a national secretary representing Mail Centres, said: ‘We must unite all sections of the union, keep one core value: “an injury to one, is an injury to all’’.

‘They will go to any lengths to break this strike. We will be tested.

‘We must mobilise for the national dispute.’

CWU national officer (outdoor), Bob Gibson, told the rally: ‘None of us have been here before.

‘If we lose, you will not have a CWU.

‘We know what modernisation means. Royal Mail says it’s about downsizing. It means cuts.

‘Vote “yes’’ for a national strike.’

Lee Baron, Midlands regional organiser, called for the national ballot timetable to be brought forwards.

He said: ‘Stoke-on-Trent Mail Centre is out on a continuous strike of all 108 members.’

He said that the Stoke Mail Centre faced closure and that CWU members there were being told to go to Wolverhampton.

‘That’s a 75 miles round trip,’ he said, ‘which is in breach of the Managing the Surplus framework agreement.’

He said that the local ballots had seen the union telling members to cross picket lines.

He asked: ‘Why do our members cross picket lines, no one should cross picket lines.’

London CWU official Mark Palfrey criticised the national CWU leadership.

He said: ‘You’ve got to get your act together.

‘We will ballot London members on the political fund.

‘We’ve been slow off the mark.

‘We should have started the national ballot on July 2.

‘That was the decision of the emergency motion.

‘This is not just about London.’

Chris Webb, from Bristol, said: ‘London are fighting on behalf of the whole CWU.

‘Bristol are fighting Royal Mail. We’re out on strike today.’

He alleged that Unite members were driving trucks for Eddie Stobart to move Royal Mail deliveries.

He demanded: ‘Unite should be expelled from the TUC’ for allowing their members to do this.

Bob McGuire, from the north-east region, said: ‘The issues are pay freeze, speed-up and the shorter working week.

‘These are national issues.’

Rob Bolton, chairman of CWU South Central No.1 branch, said to applause: ‘We’ve got to form a public sector workers alliance.

‘All public sector workers are under attack and it’s logical that we form an alliance to fight against cuts in all the public services.’

Later, he told News Line: ‘The national ballot is the right way to go, but they should have done it earlier.

‘Some of our members have been out on strike, on and off, for the last eight weeks and they’ve been begging the leadership to call a national ballot.

‘It’s only the pressure of the membership up and down the country that has forced them to call a national ballot.’

Paul Grace, CWU area delivery rep for Northern Home Counties, told News Line after the meeting: ‘We are glad the national ballot has been called.

‘This will unite us all together instead of being isolated in branches.

‘We have to unite to beat this monster attack on the CWU and its members.

‘The big issue for us is the imposing of changes without negotiation and the vindictive attacks on our members, day in and day out.’

A rep from East Anglia, who did not wish to be named, added: ‘We are pleased we are having a national ballot, but we still want our local ballots to go ahead.

‘There are local issues and you should be able to defend yourself on a local level as well as a national level.

‘There’s a national executive meeting tomorrow.

‘We are waiting to see what comes out of that.’