CWU to Royal Mail bosses: ‘You picked a fight with the wrong union!’

Postal, Royal Mail Group (EMP)

After achieving a higher percentage turnout than any general election since 1992, CWU activists meet in determined mood to discuss the next steps…

Following yesterday’s ballot result, it was back to business today, with hundreds of senior field officials and branch officials gathering in Manchester for a national briefing to update on the dispute with Royal Mail and debate ongoing strategy.

General secretary Dave Ward opened the event by once again thanking branches and members for their efforts in delivering such a “remarkable result” in the ballot. A hugely impressive 95.9 per cent YES vote and 77.3 per cent turnout – a higher percentage of voters than the last general election and higher than any general election in the past three decades.

This was “a victory for the power of ‘we’ over the power of ‘I’. It was a test of our members’ resolve and, after 18 days of strike action and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, our members delivered a result that was incredible,” Dave continued, adding that it “would’ve given the whole of TU movement a lift – as well as our members. It’s staggering that, after all that’s happened, our members haven’t shifted an inch in their support for this union.

“That result gives us a platform to resolve this dispute and get an agreement that our members can support,” he pointed out and went on to update the hall on the current talks under way between the union and the company. Former TUC general secretary Brendan Barber was now assisting in facilitating contact and discussions were now taking place with senior representatives from Royal Mail Group Board. Formal discussions are scheduled for next Tuesday and an all-day meeting of the CWU Postal Executive has been timetabled for the following day.

Acting deputy general secretary postal Andy Furey told the audience that Royal Mail bosses “will be demoralised” by the result of the ballot. “The pressure is on Royal Mail now and we’re moving forward together,” he said, adding: “They’ll be thinking: ‘What on Earth have we got to do to beat these people’?”

Looking forward, Andy said: We’re optimistic. I think we’ve turned the corner and we’ve got a new hope here.”

Next Wednesday, Royal Mail’s CEO Simon Thompson will re-appear, under Summons, for questioning by the House of Commons Select Committee, who expressed themselves as unsatisfied with the answers he gave them during his first appearance in January. A short video featuring some of that January Hearing was shown to the Manchester briefing, along with a message from our own general secretary encouraging people to watch next week’s Select Committee.

After the video, it was time for comments and questions from the floor. And, in a lively and, at times emotional session, 17 branch representatives, from every part of the UK, contributed to the debate. They spoke about particular issues within their own localities or workplaces and quizzed the union’s leadership on a range of subjects relating to the dispute. Many highlighted executive actions in their units and disciplinary actions taken by management against reps and members and insisted that achieving justice for these individuals must be a top priority. All contributors were warmly applauded, but perhaps the loudest was in response to the defiant closing words of one rep, who said that Royal Mail bosses had “picked a fight with the wrong union.”

National officers Mark Baulch, Davie Robertson and Carl Maden responded to the various points and questions asked, as well as updating the meeting on their respective areas of responsibility – which included some good news for our Royal Mail Property & Facilities Services members – after which both Andy Furey and Dave Ward made some concluding comments.

Wrapping up the successful day, our general secretary praised the “high level of debate” from the floor during the briefing and thanked all contributors. Dave pledged again to prioritise the achievement of justice for our reps and members who have been unfairly treated and that those responsible must be held accountable.
There needed to be real progress in the talks with the company, he continued, and made the point that this needed to be apparent by the time of the next Postal Executive meeting – if Royal Mail bosses wanted to avoid further industrial action.

In closing, Dave praised our members, saying: “Our members are the most remarkable group of workers in this country.

“We look after each other and we win together.”