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CWU: Vote No to the Deal

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By a CWU Rep

CWU members are being balloted on the new “Agenda for Growth” agreement (21 Jan to 4 Feb), with the union’s postal executive recommending we accept it. But postal workers should vote no, the new deal leaves us worse off and weakens the union.

Workers deserve a pay rise, we’ve been waiting for more money for nearly a year. Many will want to vote yes to get it, despite the offer  (9.1 percent over three years) being only half a percent more than Royal Mail’s original offer and still below inflation – the company can certainly afford more, with profits up by a huge fifty percent!

Protections with get-out clauses  

Looking beyond pay, the deal gets even worse.  Most workers’ big worry was that after privatisation, Royal Mail’s original  three year guarantee on our terms and conditions weren’t enough. The  strike threat forced them to extend this to five years and add legally binding “protections” against a two-tier workforce, zero hours contracts, or carving up the company. But Royal Mail can pull out of these if they are “reasonably likely to have a materially adverse effect on the Employer’s business or prospects” ie profits. This get-out clause is so vague it can cover almost any situation and mean any legal action by the CWU to try to defend these protections would be laughed out of court.

TNT is rolling out city centre deliveries based on low wages and zero hour contracts, while Amazon builds local hubs to be able to use cheaper delivery companies. Isn’t it a question of “if not when” Royal Mail pull out of the protections?  Managers will use this threat to put huge pressure on CWU leaders to make concessions.

Workplaces will get worse

The deal’s focus on “improvements to efficiency” should ring alarm bells for delivery staff in particular given that CWU negotiators caved in to Royal Mail on delivery issues like absorption, leaving them out of the deal. A review of delivery issues is promised in January, but how will that resolve them if the new agreement can’t? A forced mediation process will make it harder for reps in all workplaces to disagree issues, strengthening management’s hand across all sectors.

Strike ban ties our hands

CWU officials are insisting this isn’t a no strike deal, but it clearly is: “if there is national-scale industrial action (in the form of a strike or action short of a strike) …which either (i) involves employees in the majority of operational workplaces across Royal Mail Group Limited; or (ii) involves employees in an integral part of the operation whereby taking action will have, or is  reasonably likely to have, a similarly  disruptive effect.” So Royal Mail can  pull out of the deal  if there is a national overtime ban, action involving fifty percent plus one of workplaces, or even if there is industrial action by “employees in an integral part of the operation”, which would rule out any mail centre strikes.  Bosses get to decide if strikes are too disruptive as an excuse to pull out of the deal. Why would the Dave Ward leadership stand up to them – they didn’t this time round?

Vote no, for a strong union!

This deal chips away at our rights and strength. It will see more job losses, more unbearable workloads and management “pressure”, and result in a weaker union. Vote no and let’s demand that all the issues are resolved in a way that guarantees our future and maintains our workplace strength. That ultimately will require striking.

The CWU tops blocked a national strike all year and this dud deal is the result. If it goes through, they will be cosying up with Royal Mail bosses at board meetings and reviews, throwing more of our issues overboard  to keep Royal Mail from pulling out of the deal.

If we had made good our threat to strike in the run up to privatisation (or Christmas) we’d have squeezed far more out of Royal Mail. We still can. A recent strike by Hovis workers against zero hours contracts won, showing that you can win in the private sector – with competition and the need for shareholders to make a profit, a strike puts even more pressure on Royal Mail bosses than before.  If all those against the deal start up a campaign for a no vote, it could organise the CWU’s rank and file for the fight ahead, whether the deal goes through or not.

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