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Royal Mail bosses double profits while blocking deal

Tell CWU leaders, no dodgy deals or further delay by a CWU postal rep

Only weeks after the Royal Mail privatisation, news is already leaking out about falling service standards, increased management bullying and doubled profits – all predicted by anti-privatisation campaigners and the postal union, CWU. The reality of privatisation couldn’t be clearer. It screws workers and rips off the millions who rely on the post to create profits for the company’s new millionaire shareholders.

First it was revealed that Royal Mail had missed its targets for delivering first class letters, with hundreds of thousands delivered more than the required 24 hours later. Nearly 40 per cent of postcode areas suffered, forcing the postal regulator Ofcom to warn of possible fines. The drop in standards is to be expected after a binge of cost cutting in delivery offices since privatisation.

The company’s claim that letter volumes have dropped by 7.3 per cent this year only makes the service failure look worse – the cuts have outstripped the supposed drop in traffic. Add in the price of a first class stamp, put up to 60p last year, and it’s clear that the drive to profit has given consumers a raw deal.

That won’t make Royal Mail bosses lose sleep though, nor the hedge funds that have bought up tens of thousands of shares. They’re busy toasting Wednesday’s announcement that half-year profits (as of September 2013) have doubled to £283 million, up from £144 million over the same period last year – no doubt they’ve soared even higher with the speedups since privatisation.

Workers sweated for profit

The bosses have wrung every penny out of the workers, stripping out costs with flexibility to hike workloads, and using threats to force speedups. Friday’s unofficial walk out for three hours at Crewe delivery office shows that in some areas workers have had enough. As local CWU Graham Bebbington, assistant branch secretary told the Crewe chronicle: “For about 12 months now this bullying has been going on. The staff have been treated with no dignity or respect, there has been bullying and harassment by management and this morning there was an incident which was the final straw – the straw which broke the camel’s back.”

The strikes over the summer at Bridgwater show this drive started earlier this year, though it’s reached new levels since the October sell-off. Postal workers have reported that the savage cost cutting has resulted in undelivered mail and parcels piling up in offices for days – even without a strike! Crewe is just the tip of the iceberg of a rash of recent canteen sit-ins against management diktat.

RM managers can fight and talk why not us?

This management offensive has not let up despite negotiations between the CWU postal union tops and Royal Mail bosses – not exactly a sign of good faith. Talks have been stuck on the company’s plan for deliveries in particular, which clearly involves a wholesale attack on delivery office staff like those at Crewe. Workers are getting a taste of these plans already and there’s clearly much more in store.

But negotiators, led by Deputy General Secretary-Postal Dave Ward, have refused to say to their members what Royal Mail is planning, which is undemocratic – we have a right to know. Instead CWU tops called off a strike planned for 4 November in favour of negotiations – with little communication to the workforce since. They have let one “final deadline” pass already, the next “final deadline” is the union’s postal executive meeting Monday 2 December.

Despite this postal bosses have refused to drop their slash and burn plans for deliveries. Fears of a rotten deal that abandons delivery staff have led Leeds delivery reps to pass a motion in a union meeting insisting that there should be no deal without delivery issues being resolved “in our favour”.

Deal or no deal?

The CWU tops’ policy of secrecy and delay – before, during and now after privatisation, in search of a deal to secure postal workers’ terms and conditions in the future – has broken the dispute’s momentum and spread distrust among union members. After all, if managers can fight and talk at the same time why can’t the workers do the same, strike and talk?

Now a ballot on a deal would mean more weeks lost and the Christmas period wasted, when postal workers have maximum strength and could squeeze out the best deal as quickly possible, aiming to win our whole claim, a ten year deal protecting terms and conditions, pensions and jobs.

No more delays! Monday should be the end of the line – if Royal Mail doesn’t give us the deal we need, let’s start a clamour to strike immediately and ramp up action to win before Xmas. Of course posties can still fight even after Xmas; a strike any time would put a big dent in profits and share price.

After privatisation, we have leverage we never had before. Previously public sector managers and state bureaucrats at most lost some of their bonus from a strike. Now we can hit the new bosses – the shareholders – where it hurts the most, their pocket, just after they’ve just shelled out loads to buy shares.

The postal workers in Crewe and Leeds have shown how to stand up to shopfloor attacks, deal or no deal. And our shopfloor strength is our only real guarantee going forward.

But ultimately we need a national response to these attacks, and our leaders have proven they’ve got no plans – or stomach – for a fight. Those can only come from the union’s fighting grassroots members who urgently needs to organise themselves into a national rank and file network. That’s the key not only to ensuring we beat the current offensive back, but also to monitoring and enforcing any deal that emerges.

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