CWU calls out the vote – Phonebank volunteers ring 25,000


By Fiamma Wotton

“Thank you so much to all of you,” a proud Terry Pullinger, DGSP, told over 100 volunteers at the end of yesterday’s National Call Out The Vote Phonebank.

And our general secretary Dave Ward added his thanks too, saying he was “overwhelmed by your support – thanks very much everyone.”

An estimated 25,000 CWU members were rung up by the enthusiastic team, who came down to the union’s Wimbledon headquarters from all around the country for the big push to maximise participation in the industrial action ballot of our Royal Mail Group members.

As well as branch activists, members of staff also lent a hand with the calling, which went on throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

And in a special Call Parcelforce session, particular attention was paid to those at the very forefront of this dispute, who have been threatened with being ‘TUPE’d’ out of Royal Mail Group.

Kicking off the event, our DGSP spoke of the enormous significance of the dispute with the current Royal Mail Group leadership, of how the company’s strategy is “everything we feared from privatisation” and of how important it is to achieve the highest possible turnout and YES vote in the industrial action ballot.

“Let’s get onto this all afternoon and speak to as many people as we can,” he urged, adding: “We’re going to work hard, but we’re also going to have some fun as well.”

And the calling started, with two long tables full of ‘phonebankers’ ringing up members from their branch lists, with Terry taking his turn alongside them.

Branches from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and all points North, South, East and West sent down their enthusiastic volunteers, who rang members all afternoon and into the evening.

Travelling the furthest was Lesley-Anne Macaskill the area delivery rep of the union’s Highland Amal Branch, which has 64 delivery units, with a high proportion of SPDOs among them.

“When I’ve been doing gate meetings, often these are units of just four or five people – and the biggest concern among them is the threat to the USO and to their jobs,” she says, adding: “On the phone today, all but one of the people I’ve spoken to has voted already.”

Amarjite Singh has come from South East Wales Amal Branch and is the branch secretary. Amarjite fears that “if they separate Parcelforce, they’ll split away other parts of the business.”

But he insists he is “very optimistic” that the union will be able to win a fair settlement.

Northern Ireland Combined Branch member Bobby Weatherall, who is also a postal executive member, cites “keeping Royal Mail Group together and getting the shorter working week” as the top issues for members in Northern Ireland.

“I’m ringing people from our Northern Ireland East, West and Combined branches and the responses have been really positive,” he adds.

London divisional rep and postal executive member Martin Walsh says that “In the 35 years I’ve worked for Royal Mail, with every YES vote we have achieved, we’ve come out better off after every dispute.” with that being “six national disputes and countless local ones.”

Nimisha Vekaria represents Parcelforce workers at the biggest unit in the country, the Coventry Hubs.

“We’ve got about 750 members,” she says, and not surprisingly, “the biggest worry of our members is the threat of ‘TUPE’.”

On the phones, Nimisha finds a large majority have already voted, but she also reminds several others of the urgent need to vote – “and these people have promised me they’re going to vote this week.”

The union’s stance has won strong support among her Parcelforce members and Nimisha reports that management at the site seem rattled by this and have, apparently, been trying to discourage people from wearing their ‘I’ve voted YES’ stickers at work.

“I’m 100 per cent optimistic that we can get a good settlement to this,” she insists, adding: “We shouldn’t underestimate our own strength.”

After a few hard hours on the phones, Team GOTV stopped to hear some words of heartfelt thanks and appreciation from Terry and Dave, after which some well-deserved pizza and refreshing drinks were provided, giving people a chance to stop for a chat before making their way back home again.

Summing up the day, the union’s head of communications Chris Webb said: “I think this is going to be a massive YES vote.

“Achieving 25,000 calls, which is roughly around 15 per cent of our Royal Mail members being reached out too, this leaves me feeling very optimistic for the forthcoming ballot result next week,” he adds.

And the highlight of his day was “seeing everyone from all parts of the UK working together to get that YES vote.”