Solidarity from across the movement will be vital as Royal Mail threatens to avert next week‘s strike
In the first national strike ballot since the Trade Union Act was introduced, the Communications Workers Union (CWU) delivered a record 89.1% ‘yes’ vote from a ‘threshold-smashing’ 73% turnout, after an exemplary strike ballot campaign.
The CWU postal workers were set to strike for 48 hours from 19th October.
Royal Mail’s response to their workers’ overwhelming vote of no confidence was to immediately invoke a ‘legally binding’ external mediation process, threatening ‘If CWU does not withdraw its notice of strike action by 12 noon Monday 9 October, Royal Mail will lodge an application with the high court for an injunction to prevent industrial action.’
CWU Deputy General Secretary (Postal) Terry Pullinger described Royal Mail’s response as a ‘shock’ as the union considers the requirements of the dispute resolution procedures satisfied by negotiations over the preceding 18 months, including the use of Acas.
Once the post-privatisation three-year legally binding agreement protecting workers expired, Royal Mail went on the offensive.
The CWU 2017 Conference heard Royal Mail would attack job protections, hit new recruits’ terms and conditions, reduce sick pay, impose monthly pay on weekly paid workers, and take area reps out of the industrial relations framework.
CWU came back strongly, signalling that any attempt by Royal Mail to impose cuts would ‘activate an immediate ballot for strike action’. Issues escalated when Royal Mail said they plan to close the defined benefit pension scheme next year.
Once the strike ballot had been called, the CWU ‘yes’ campaign showed a union translating fundamental organising principles into modern social media frameworks with incredible success — including a Facebook Live Q&A billed as ‘the biggest trade union meeting in history’, and video updates on negotiations to counteract Royal Mail’s ‘Vote No’ propaganda.
The CWU took on the Tory government in the first test of the union-wrecking TU Act — and they smashed it. But the Tory press and party will hit back — solidarity from across the movement will be vital as Royal Mail’s threats pan out in practice.
Pullinger described the postal service as ‘a massively important public service connecting everybody in this country regardless of who you are’.
It’s a principle in practice that the establishment will find the movement is prepared to come out fighting for.