We voted yes, no more Royal Mail delaying tactics
By A CWU Rep
WE DID IT. After a determined mass campaign for a yes vote we've got a strong result - an 89 per cent yes vote on a 73 per cent turnout, of two thirds of staff voting yes, a very high vote by any standard.
Every CWU member, activist, and rep should be chuffed that our efforts paid off. Our union ran a great social media campaign using Facebook and Whatsapp, combined with more traditional forms such as reps briefings and gate meetings, but the campaign to get out the vote was powered from the grassroots.
The canteen chats, offsite meetings and gate rallies, the "we're voting yes" mass selfies and social media campaign run by the union and shared thousands of times by members – we swamped the PR campaign run by Royal Mail, its cynical spin matched only by its insulting assumption that postal workers wouldn't be smart enough to see through it.
Royal Mail in denial
Royal Mail has suffered a public relations blow, the entire mainstream media recognises this was a resounding rejection of Royal Mail's cuts plans by staff and a big boost to our union and its members. As Terry Pullinger has said, "it’s a massive vote of no confidence in the leaders of this business, and they should in my opinion resign or be sacked". Predictably they are doing just as the millionaire shareholders want them to do. As Terry stated "their whole mantra is about minimising costs, maximising profits, increase shareholder return year on year, and if that's at the expense of our members and this great public service they just don't care."
The ball is in Royal Mail's court now. Unsurprisingly they seem determined to keep their head in the sand and pretend no dispute exists. Unbelievably their response is that it is "business as usual" and “both sides are required to follow … independent external mediation, which we expect will take close to Christmas to be completed, and may be longer. The union cannot take industrial action until they have been completed. They want to keep us till after Christmas (after refusing to talk for 18 months) and talk out the period of our maximum leverage. We can’t accept that, too much is at stake.
Time for action
The postal executive is meeting Thursday 5 October to decide the next steps, and will no doubt release its decision. What is for sure is there should be no room for fake offers or fake talks by Moya and Co to delay delay and delay some more. If Royal Mail isn't willing to meet our demands, we should use our momentum and our leverage to begin the strike. We can "walk and talk" at the same time, and it means twisting their arm now. In addition the Tories, who will back management, are weak, divided, and unpopular.
The grassroots powered the yes vote and now members and reps need to get organised quickly so we aren’t just following initiatives from the top but in a position to discuss what we think needs to happen in an organised way and make our views known. The mass assemblies that took the selfies can meet again, offsite if necessary, to discuss what action is necessary, pass this up to the leadership and elect a strike committee to make sure each office is rock solid, a bastion of union power. So what should we do? Here’s some ideas based on our last 15 years of disputes:
There’s not much time, so why not start with more than just a one-day strike and escalate quickly to all-out if Royal Mail won’t budge. We will have massive public support if we tap it, the CWU should build a massive solidarity campaign with postal service users, other trade unions, students.Involve the Labour Party – under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell it now has leaders who support striking workers and the renationalisation of Royal Mail. Let’s get Labour to mobilise its 570,000 members. If Royal Mail tries to use the law, as it did in 2007 when it won a court injunction stopping the strike, we need to be prepared to take action from below and insist our leaders back it.
Organise the rank and file
Looking back, unofficial walk-outs saved the union in 2003, but we had a negative experience in 2007 when the current union leadership unfortunately dropped a really successful strike due to a court injunction. The lesson is that grassroots initiative is crucial, and it is likely to prove crucial in what could well be a hard-fought strike.
We need a movement of rank and file members, activists and reps – of those who actually face the later starts and workload hike, the shopfloor dictat and bullying managers, falling wages now and pension poverty in the future. We’ve already shown our power when the union leadership takes a dynamic, fighting initiative, let’s make sure we are organised and prepared to take decisive action from below if the Tories, unelected Tory judges, or management try to block us defending our jobs. There is too much at stake not to!
Defending the public service
If the last three years have shown anything, it is that privatisation and a Royal Mail run for private profit is incompatible with the wages and conditions of postal workers. It is likely to prove incompatible with the very existence of Royal Mail itself as a public service provider, upholding the Universal Service Obligation – even if management imposed the gig economy style job structure on the workforce and hiked profits by millions, the odds are at least even that in 2019 it would still pull out of the legal protections won at the time of privatisation and break up the business, destroying the USO in the process with the Tories’ support.
Only postal workers can stop that juggernaut and create momentum in the other direction, for renationalisation – we aren’t just fighting for ourselves, in doing so we are fighting for the whole future of the postal service.