‘New Year & we’re still here’ – CWU comes out fighting on all frontsPostal January 11 2023
2023 opens with the launch of another strike ballot campaign all around the UK, while our CWU leadership presses Royal Mail hard in negotiations and takes our members’ case to Westminster…
Hundreds of area, branch and divisional reps – each one of them having led, organised and represented their members at workplaces all across the country during this union’s biggest dispute since 1971 – brought a defiant mood of grim determination and resolution to yesterday’s national briefing in central London yesterday.
With 18 days of strike action having been taken between late August and the end of the year, yesterday’s briefing at Euston’s Friend’s Meeting House was called to update everybody on the latest developments and set out and discuss the strategy for the period ahead. And, in his opening speech, our general secretary Dave Ward began by thanking everyone for their remarkable collective strength and unity on the picket lines and in the workplaces.
Dave highlighted the fact that the company leadership had made some meaningful moves in the right direction was entirely due to the solid strike action taken so far and the impact on the operation and that it was these new commitments from the business – in particular the ruling out of compulsory redundancies and the agreement to return to the established industrial relations framework – that had provided a basis for renewed negotiations. However, although these moves had been significant, the CWU and Royal Mail were still “nowhere near” reaching the comprehensive national agreement which would resolve the dispute completely.
Negotiations were ongoing, he continued, and despite the steps forward, this dialogue was and would be difficult. There are still some unacceptable proposals on the table from the company – particularly the intention to recruit new staff on lower pay, to move towards an ‘owner-driver’ model and to outsource some key operations – but the union’s leadership would keep a strong focus on these talks and on pressing the business towards solutions.
Once again praising reps, activists and members for their loyalty to the union, Dave said: “You’ve faced the most brutal attack on any group of workers since the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike. Every day, management have tried to intimidate and bully, but you’ve stood solid and it’s a tribute to you all.” Slamming the disciplinary actions taken by the company against reps and others during the dispute, he repeated the union’s pledge that there will be no agreement made unless and until all those unfairly disciplined receive justice.
At the same time, the union is launching a national campaign to win the new strike ballot mandate as required by law. Under current legislation, last year’s two national Royal Mail ballots ‘expire’ on 19th January (Pay) and 17th February (Change) respectively. The union is, therefore, holding another national strike ballot, which will encompass all of the issues in dispute.
Ballot papers will be dispatched to members on Monday 23rd January and the result will be declared on Thursday16th February.
“We’ve got to win the re-ballot and return another massive YES – and to achieve another huge turnout,” Dave said, adding: “Let’s show that battle-hardened strength that goes right across the UK.”
And the third strand of the union’s 2023 strategy is in the political and public opinion arena, our general secretary explained, pointing to the Westminster Hall Debates scheduled for this week, the Select Committee session next week to which the CWU has been invited to give evidence, and the meeting with Royal Mail Group shareholders on 23rd January.
Acting DGSP Andy Furey and CWU head of communications Chris Webb spoke to the meeting in more detail about the ballot campaign ahead, Andy set out some of the key dates ahead and said: “The whole infrastructure of the union is geared towards getting the best possible result in this re-ballot. This is the next phase of our dispute and we’re in good shape and ready to go again,” while Chris revealed the campaign plan and the various tactics and media that will be used by the union over the next few weeks.
“Face-to-face conversations, meetings and events will be the number one priority – and there’ll be a National Gate Meeting Day on 23rd January – the day the ballot papers go out,” he said, although there will also be home mailings tailored to particular functional groups and of course online communication and messaging – the first of which was last night’s national Facebook broadcast.
A lively discussion from the floor then ensued, as reps from all parts of the country stepped up to speak, raise issues of concern to members in their own areas and ask questions of Dave, Andy, Chris and the other officers present – Mark Baulch, Davie Robertson and Carl Maden, who each addressed the meeting as well.
Mark and Davie’s speeches largely focused on the operational issues raised during the dispute – with a particular attention on the delivery revisions and revisions and alignments in processing and other pipeline functions, but also, of course, on jobs and job security going forward. In Carl’s address, he talked about the alarming moves that the company is making towards outsourcing in Fleet – both in vehicle ownership and maintenance – and of how vital it is that the union resists this.
Around a dozen speakers from the floor were taken in each of the three discussion sessions and subjects ranged from points about the effectiveness of the action so far and where we should go from here, the crucial need to defend our victimised reps and members, to what branches can do at a local level in this campaign and how unit reps should deal with revision issues.
Summing up the day, Chris Webb said: “It was great to get everyone together from the whole country and Dave Ward said that it had been a really useful discussion – most importantly, it was an open and honest debate and we’re all pulling in the same direction. As he said in his closing comments, our job now is to get out there, campaign and win the biggest possible YES in this re-ballot.”