Postal workers' national strikes, 2007

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magnifico
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Jun 7 2007 12:20
Postal workers' national strikes, 2007

CWU strike ballot results 77.5% yes to industrial action. 66064 for action 19119 against. Over two thirds turnout.

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jef costello
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Jun 7 2007 12:23

more details?
Is this over the closure/WHSmith plan or somethig else?
When is the industrial action going to take place and what form will it take?

magnifico
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Jun 7 2007 12:31

Sorry I'm no expert i just heard those results and posted them up.

Here's an article i wrote for our local website with a few more details:

Quote:
Northamptonshire postal workers have asked for public support in the event of a possible upcoming strike by county postal workers. The possible action would follow a national ballot for strike action over pay and the future of the Royal Mail.

The recent pay deal offered to workers was either a £600 lump sum or a 2.5% raise. Since inflation is currently 4.8% this would in actuality be a pay cut, but Royal Mail bosses are described by a local union representative as attaching ‘more strings than Pinocchio’ to any acceptance of even this paltry deal in an attempt to implement a business plan that would cut £350 million with a devastating effect on quality of service and the loss of around 40,000 jobs nationally.

Strike action is nothing new for Northamptonshire postal workers, whose most recent victory followed an unofficial five-day wildcat strike in the summer of 2005 which saw local bosses retreat with their tails between their legs from attempts to implement a range of measures designed to cut costs and reduce earnings.

We wish our local postal workers well in any upcoming dispute.

From what I just heard on the radio the union are still saying they hope to avoid action by gaining concessions now that the result is in and the bosses know they're serious. i don't know when the possible action would take place or if it's even been decided but on another list I'm on someone said they thought the PCS might strike at the same time.

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Jun 7 2007 12:37

We've got a full interview with a long-term postie militant on the implications of what's going on which'll be in issue 6812 of Freedom.

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Jun 7 2007 14:39
Quote:
From what I just heard on the radio the union are still saying they hope to avoid action by gaining concessions now that the result is in and the bosses know they're serious.

So if you know that, and I know that, and the union has the stupidity to announce it on the radio, then surely the bosses will also know that they're serious... about avoiding strike action. Funnily enough, I've heard of reps telling members the same thing: "Vote to strike anyway because we won't have to."

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Jun 7 2007 16:13
Serge Forward wrote:
Quote:
From what I just heard on the radio the union are still saying they hope to avoid action by gaining concessions now that the result is in and the bosses know they're serious.

So if you know that, and I know that, and the union has the stupidity to announce it on the radio, then surely the bosses will also know that they're serious... about avoiding strike action. Funnily enough, I've heard of reps telling members the same thing: "Vote to strike anyway because we won't have to."

I don't know what their message is obviously, but there's a difference between saying "we'll strike if we have to but want to come to agreement" and "vote to strike anyway because we won't have to."

gwry
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Jun 7 2007 18:20

The last time we struck,nationally, was in 1996. That was over the introduction of "Teamworking", ie getting us to work in groups, and to be responsible for covering eachother for sick, or annual leave, and to compete against eachother for bonuses etc. This would erradicate, "seniority", by which duties and leave are allocated according to the number of years an individual has worked for Royal Mail. The management basically want a, "blue eyed boy", system, where line managers would dish out duties to whomever they see fit, ie brown-nosed bastards who are prepared to suck up to them. They also want to get rid of other aspects of the job, which give us, the posties control over our jobs. The Guild Socialists (kind of reformist syndicalists) were quite influential in the union in the 1920's,and were concerned to instutionalise a lot of practises which increased workers control over the job, as part of their theories concerning encroaching control.It is these which Leighton (the chairman of Royal Mail), wants to get rid of. he also wants to by-pass the union, the CWU, altogether and install TVs in every office, at £2000 a time, so he can communicate directly with "his" workers!
I fear the union leadership will fuck this one up.One day strikes are pointless tokenism which merely serve to dissipate the genuine militancy which exists amongst us. The mangement will be able to deal with that. What they couldn't deal with, is an all out strike. It is that which libertarians must argue for, as well as preventing "left" Labour MPs from making political capital out of it.

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Jun 7 2007 19:04

It depends upon the amount of pressure that you feel you will bring on management.
Here in France the posties won by striking one day a week and banning overtime, it's easier for workers to manage on 80% pay than it is 0% pay. And the company will run at much less than 80%. An all-out strike needs to be won within a fairly short period of time, a regular one-day strike is not so all-or nothing.
That's just my thoughts on this, I'm not sure if they'll be any help.

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Jun 7 2007 20:26
jef costello wrote:
It depends upon the amount of pressure that you feel you will bring on management.
Here in France the posties won by striking one day a week and banning overtime, it's easier for workers to manage on 80% pay than it is 0% pay. And the company will run at much less than 80%. An all-out strike needs to be won within a fairly short period of time, a regular one-day strike is not so all-or nothing.
That's just my thoughts on this, I'm not sure if they'll be any help.

Yeah that sort of stuff can have effects over time, but if bosses know you're going to stay out till you win then you're much more likely to get a swift win. In the postal service something like that could be a possibility.

I'm local government, we got the same pay offer and are having pre-ballot "consultation" on industrial action. Again it'll just be for one day shite though. I started a thread about it in Organise - http://libcom.org/forums/organise/uk-public-sector-pay-dispute-nurses-local-gov-civil-service-post-office-etc

Vaneigemappreci...
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Jun 7 2007 21:06

I think NHS workers (i'm not sure what sector) were offered the same 2.5% that the postal workers have been offered and everyones aware that it amounts to a pay cut, shame there isnt more of a push for some cross sector strike action.

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Jun 7 2007 21:24

Quite a few people I work with voted for industrial action precicely because the CWU implied it will be one day a week. The last all out strike was in 1988 to prevent casualisation. We won that one, but within a few years we had workers on short term contracts and but for someone finding out about a European law, most of them would never have got substantive contracts at all. This is the problem. The CWU bosses (that's exactly what they are) talk a good fight, but they're likely to climb down and compromise. They don't want to rock the Labour Party boat.
There would be no need to strike at all if staff didn't arrive early (up to an hour in some cases) and start working unpaid overtime, stopped using their own cars to get themselves and all their bags of mail to their deliveries and stopped turning in on their day off to bail Royal Mail out by working overtime.
Leighton says pay has gone up by 25%, it hasn't, but he doesn't say we have lost night allowances, Saturday attendace allowances and that the overtime rate is now less than the flat rate. He's on about competition. These firms like TNT, Businesspost etc don't have staff delivering letters. They collect from firms then hand over the mail to Royal Mail for delivery. When he says they have lost 40% of business, he's lying. If anything, the amount of mail has risen. Management warned for years that the internet would lose business. It hasn't. If anything on-line shopping with e-Bay, Amazon, Play,Com and others has increased business. He wants us to cover 20% of someone elses round during the summer and when they're off sick for no extra pay. Idiots racing around in cars and working before their official start time are proving they have time to do this. The worst culprits are the newer workers whose jobs will be the first to go. Royal Mail can't afford to pay off all the people with 25 years plus who might want to go, they can't get rid of enough by sacking them on trumped up charges or by the sickness and late proceedures, so they're going to have to get rid of the new starters by making them redundant. But we've voted to strike and I'm all for having a proper strike. It would be over in a week, but I don't think Billy Hayes has got the bottle for it.

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Jun 7 2007 21:27

http://www.royalmailchat.co.uk/forum/index.php

posi
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Jun 8 2007 06:58

There is every risk that the CWU executive will bottle it. There is also the problem that alot of elections (and today, national conference) have just finished within the union. This will make political repercussions seem distant.

On the other hand, the posties have still got quite a bit of fight left in them... and showed this week that they're not afraid to dick on the executive for cosying up to labour politicians who've fucked 'em over - i.e. Alan Johnson.

Billy Hayes is a total non-entity - he will just do what he is told to by those around him. As an activist said to me the other day about management at his workplace, "they're unpredictable. They're unpredictable because they're stupid."

But whatever happens, like whenever posties strike, there will be massive disinformation. in the popular media Important that we do what we can to circumvent that.

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Jun 9 2007 18:12

Here is a preview of an article that will go on the front page of World Revolution this month. Offered as a contribution to the discussion about what revolutionaries should be saying about the current dispute


Postal workers need to take the struggle into their own hands

[/b]

The result of the ballot held by the Communication Workers Union – over 77% in favour of industrial action in a two-thirds turn-out – is an indication that there is a great deal of anger amongst postal workers about the latest attack on their pay and conditions: a 2.5% pay offer which is well under the rate of inflation, and plans for ‘modernising’ Royal Mail which will mean job cuts and deteriorating conditions at work.
However, no date has been set for industrial action and no sooner had the result been announced than union leaders were proclaiming their willingness to avoid a strike through negotiations. On top of that, if the action does take place, it will most likely take the form of a series of one-day, ‘rolling’ strikes.
In short, the CWU is getting ready either to prevent a strike altogether, or to make sure it is as ineffective as possible if it does happen.
Many militant workers argue that the best response to such sabotage is to demand an all-out, indefinite strike. But the tactics and methods of the struggle is something that workers themselves need to debate. The ballot system, in fact the whole hierarchical union structure, does not allow such a debate to take place, still less does it enable the workers, organised at work, to make and carry out their own decisions. In virtually every struggle in the post office in recent years, workers have ignored the official union procedures and voted in mass meetings to come out on strike. Such mass meetings need to be held again now, to discuss the best means for waging this struggle, and to coordinate directly with other workplaces.
Obviously any action in the Royal Mail needs to involve as many postal workers as possible, regardless of workplace or category But the strength of any movement of the working class does not reside in its ability to hold out for as long as possible against the bosses, who will always have the support of the rest of the ruling class, their media and their state. It resides above all in the ability of the struggle to spread, to become a mass struggle that builds a balance of forces against the bosses and the state.
It is not only postal workers who face attacks on their pay and conditions. There is growing discontent in the NHS, in the civil service, in education, in the Airbus factories, in transport and many other sectors. Postal workers discussing industrial action should also discuss how to make links with other sectors, how to win their solidarity, how to act together. And here again they cannot rely on the unions. They need to go directly to other workplaces and sectors, sending delegations to the nearest factory, hospital or school, holding joint meetings, raising common demands. These are the methods of struggle that alone can make our exploiters think twice about exploiting us even harder than they are already. And they are also the methods that allow us to seriously pose the question of how we can do away with exploitation altogether, and reorganise society in the interests of the vast majority of humanity. WR 8/6/7

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Jun 13 2007 21:58

It would be very interesting to hear more regularly from gwry and forty twenty about the discussions going on in the post about the proposed (or threatened) strike.

tony
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Jun 15 2007 22:08
jef costello wrote:
more details?
Is this over the closure/WHSmith plan or somethig else?
When is the industrial action going to take place and what form will it take?

The votes were primarily over the 2.5% pay offer, but were also over the numerous strings, cuts and closures linked to it. The votes were:
Royal Mail For 66,064 (77.5%) Against 19,119
Post office Limited (Counters) For 2,740 (73%) Against 993
Cash In Transit For 545 (66%) Against 283
The CWU have asked Alan Leighton to recognise the overwhelming opposition to the pay cut (in real terms) and his plans and to return to serious negotiations. He seems to be in denial, and is refusing to reconsider his stance, insisting there will be no change to the offer or plans. The CWU have given him seven days to negotiate, failing which the Executive will announce the programme for Industrial Action next Thursday.

Lurch
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Jun 16 2007 09:28

Terry Wrote:

Quote:
The CWU have asked Alan Leighton to recognise the overwhelming opposition to the pay cut (in real terms) and his plans and to return to serious negotiations. He seems to be in denial, and is refusing to reconsider his stance, insisting there will be no change to the offer or plans.

I don’t think Leighton is “in denial”. To a large extent, he and those beside and above him are aware of what they’re doing.

The strike vote in the Postal Sector – which has been notable for various wildcats over the past decade (in 2000, strikes in the Post Office accounted for half the total of UK strike days, according to one source) – is the result of a specific management proposal to further erode wages and conditions of service, to heighten exploitation, to wring more surplus from the proletariat, to further remove the state from the direct path of workers’ wrath and to atomise any response.

This ‘management’ is of course not just the affair of the Post Office. For a start, on an EC-wide basis, there are currently talks between the gangsters about how to reduce costs and stimulate investment in this sector by further ‘opening up’ services formerly under the direct control of or run as a monopoly by, the state, in each national entity.

This discussion among thieves envisages direct attacks on the conditions of workers in each country as part of this approach. It is said in The Guardian that French representatives are particularly concerned about how best to arrow this attack on ‘their’ postal workers and I think Jeff Costello has mentioned the relative strength and solidarity in the French PO.

In Britain, the state has already directly intervened: it was no coincidence that within 2 days of the result of the strike ballot, an all-party select committee of MPs made public its criticisms of the Post Office management, saying that its job was not to manage the sector’s decline but to make it a “dynamic and profitable business.” In short it was there to reinforce the PO management’s drive to ‘modernise’ conditions and practices.

The initiative is with Leighton and the bourgeoisie: it’s obliged to attack, yes, and it’s attacking.

The Daily Telegraph of June 3 describes it thus: “Senior Royal Mail executives were last night bracing themselves for a bruising fight they expect to last for as long as three months.'This will be bloody. We have had the miners, we have had Longbridge and now we have this," said one director. Another executive described the likely strikes as "the tipping point" in Royal Mail's history.”

As for the union, the very act of calling for a strike vote, and waiting for the result, and then calling for more talks with management, is a means for the CWU to attempt to impose a framework, a straightjacket, on the workers’ response. Will there or won’t there be a strike? All-out or rolling one day? Will it cover the Royal Mail, The Counter Services and the cash-handling section, or will they each go their own way?

Questions are being posed in a way that assumes and attempts to determine that workers themselves will have little control over the process of their own struggle. There isn’t yet an open struggle (although there was a wildcat of 150 postal workers in Luton on June 6 in solidarity with a sacked driver), but a political one is certainly underway.

So postal and other workers are facing bosses and the state that are prepared for a fight, want a fight. It’s us who will be in denial if we don’t recognise this.

Which is why discussion amongst the postal workers – and by those who would support them – is crucial at this stage. How do we face up to this attack? What are the lessons of the last nationwide strike? How do workers give themselves the means to have some control over the aims and tactics of any strike? Is there a potential to involve other workers subject to very similar attacks – to extend any movement through workers’ solidarity, not appeals to ‘the public’, etc etc. None of us believes in god or the fates: nothing is yet determined in advance. ‘Workers: it’s your turn to speak and to act’.

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Jun 19 2007 20:13

Excellent post Lurch. We have produced our front page article in PDF format with the idea of distributing it to postal workers and others. It may get left behind by events; last I heard the strike was still a possibility, although we should here something in the next day or so. Nevertheless the essential point made by the article/leaflet remains: necessity for workers to group together on as broad a basis as possible, and to make their own decisions about the conduct of the struggle.

streathamite
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Jun 19 2007 20:31

does anyone know of any support groups being formed? I'm up for it

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Jun 20 2007 13:48

The CWU and Royal Mail are meeting Acas today. The last I heard was the CWU Postal Exec are meeting tomorrow and will probably announce a strike date.
Kirkby Delivery Office near Liverpool are on strike today. Royal Mail have pulled in managers from around the North West to scab. Not sure of the details, but staff at Kirkby are supporting a 62 year old postman who due to accident or a surgical operation can no longer walk for the required time of 3 and a half hours. Staff want Royal Mail to find him work inside the delivery office, but Royal Mail are saying there is no work to do. That's crap. In every delivery office most of the managers time is spent cutting open and tipping bags of mail, gawking at the internet and answering irate customers who are wondering why the mail is getting later and later arriving. The man could perform any of this work.

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Jun 20 2007 17:08

A message from Dave Ward DGS (Postal)

Dear Colleagues,

The union meet Royal Mail today in ACAS facilitated talks.
Disappointingly, Royal Mail simply concentrated on reiterating their
business plan and previous offer that the workforce has already
overwhelmingly rejected.

Again CWU made it clear that we wanted fresh talks. We explained that
we were not against modernisation nor had we asked for a 27% pay rise.
We told Royal Mail that they needed to take their employees with them
and that change needed to be underpinned by raising postal workers pay.

It is clear Royal Mail intend to continue with the current round of cuts
and impose major change on the workforce.

As promised, we did not have a knee jerk reaction but the company has
refused to talk seriously. As a result it is clear that a strike is
required before they will have serious talks on pay and the future
direction of the company.

The union will be announcing an initial strike programme tomorrow.
Inevitably, you will hear this first through the media but all members
will receive a detailed communication from the union next week.

The timing of the strike will provide time for more talks. This will
give Royal Mail a further opportunity to resolve the matter and go
forward together as they agreed to do last year. Please cascade this
message to your work colleagues that are unable to receive our email
updates.

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Jun 20 2007 18:50

RM have been gearing up for this to be a final showdown style event for the last few months, I know Billy's a bit silly but you'd have to be a moron not to know it. The likely thing I suspect is that the union bosses will use this as a kind of 'well we tried' with the press to try and get them on side. Which is also quite stupid, the press aren't going to be anything of the sort.

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Jun 20 2007 19:08

You're quite correct. Apart from Paul Routledge in The Daily Mirror a cople of weeks ago, I can't think of anything else in the mainstream press.

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Jun 20 2007 20:31
Saii wrote:
I know Billy's a bit silly but you'd have to be a moron not to know it.

Actually, I met him a few times back in the eighties when he was in the UCW broad left. I don't think he is a moron, but he is somebody who is very capable of decieving themselves with their own ideology.
Devrim

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Jun 21 2007 10:47

http://www.publicservant.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=3171

Postal strike is to go ahead, say unions
Thursday, June 21, 2007
As we reported on 8 June in our story 'Postal workers agree to go on strike', this has now been confirmed by unions and the first of potentially many dates has been set for 29 June.

This date will involve the first 24-hour strike by as many as 130,000 postal workers. Our original story stated that around 20,000 workers who were not members of the Communication Workers Union would join the union members on the picket line. There could also be disruption outside WH Smith stores which have been suggested as a possible future provider of post office services.

In the original vote, the result of which was warmly welcomed, 77 per cent of postal workers voted in favour of taking their first national industrial action for 11 years.

The union and Royal Mail management held talks via Acas yesterday intended to prevent the strike but, with the Royal Mail unwilling to budge on its 2.5 per cent pay deal (and the union wanting 4.8 per cent and a five-year deal), there was little chance of any progress.

A spokesperson for the CWU said: "[The Royal Mail] spent the whole time repeating the offer which has been rejected by 95 per cent of the workforce. There was no new money and no real willingness to negotiate."

A spokesman for Royal Mail, which has just lost an £8m contract with Amazon, said: "We remain willing to talk and continue to explain our position and we hope that the union will continue to engage and will realise how damaging a strike would be."

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Jun 21 2007 22:39

Article/leaflet on the coming postal strike downloadable in PDF

http://en.internationalism.org/files/en/postal-leaflet.pdf

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Jun 22 2007 11:31

I just read the Freedom interview with a postman http://libcom.org/news/it-s-war-royal-mail-19062007 :

Freedom wrote:
Others began their working lives as Postal Cadets, seeing their conditions improve when the old UPW/UCW was a byword for militant action, and deteriorate as the leadership fell under the spell of Blair.

As far as I know the UPW/UCW didn't call a strike between the end of the national strike in 1971, and the one day strike over DRAS is 1988. What reputation for militancy; 17 years without a strike?
Devrim

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Jun 22 2007 16:10

The leadership might not have called any national strikes, but I was on strike in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1988 for two weeks over casualisation, 1991, 1994, 2000 and 2001. I would think things in other delivery offices would be fairly similar and there were strikes in larger offices and Mail Centres during that period. All in all, that's fairly militant compared to most other industries. Of course most of these strikes began without the knowledge of of the London based or divisional hierarchy, but were no less militant for that.

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Jun 22 2007 17:58

I think the ICC leaflet is good. You left commies are messing with head. cry

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Jun 22 2007 23:07

With your head, I assume, Oh Button. You are welcome, in fact positively encouraged, to reproduce it and give it out around you.

Forty: I think Devrim's point is that it was the postal workers who were militant, not the UCW

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Jun 23 2007 15:38
Forty Twenty wrote:
The leadership might not have called any national strikes, but I was on strike in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1988 for two weeks over casualisation, 1991, 1994, 2000 and 2001. I would think things in other delivery offices would be fairly similar and there were strikes in larger offices and Mail Centres during that period. All in all, that's fairly militant compared to most other industries. Of course most of these strikes began without the knowledge of of the London based or divisional hierarchy, but were no less militant for that.

I was on strike in the Post Office in the eigthies, including in the national strike. I remember that in 1988 more strike days were lost in the Post Office than the rest of UK industry combined. The workers were Militant. The idea that everything was ok with the UPW/UCW before 'the leadership fell under the spell of Blair' is nonsense. I remember Mike Hogan (UCW LDC) coming down to tell us to go back to work, but I don't remember the UCW defending postman.

Actually on a factual point, I have just remember that they called 24 hour strikes at two offices in 1987 over the 43 hour week, no strikes for 16 years.

Devrim

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