Online Engagement Festival: Day 1 – Watch out BT – you’re taking on the whole CWU!

Union Matters

Tuesday 29th September

“If we stick together as a collective, we can take this company on,” were CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr’s stirring words to BT members this evening, telling them to “be ready to ballot for industrial action” in the fight against compulsory redundancies.

And the union’s Royal Mail members will be fully behind their “BT comrades” pledged Andy Furey, who urged all postal CWU branches to “support you in full solidarity” at the rousing conclusion to Day One of our union’s Online Engagement Festival.

The final session of the day was the Industrial Roundtable, which was introduced by Dave Ward our general secretary and then followed by two separate ‘breakout sessions’ in which members from each respective industrial constituency debated with their national industrial officers, then came back together for closing messages.

Before they went to their breakout sessions, Dave said: “Our number one issue for all of us is our members’ jobs, terms and conditions and these are huge moments for our members in Royal Mail and BT.

“This is the bread and butter of our union, the real nitty-gritty and I ask everyone to think about how we can help and support each other.”

Discussion in the Royal Mail breakout session focussed on updates on the current national negotiations with the business and officers Andy Furey, Carl Maden and Davie Robertson took a range of questions from branch members on issues from the expected severity of the forthcoming Christmas pressure period, pay talks, holiday pay and pensions to matters such as van shares and other operational topics.

In the BT breakout session, key concerns were of course the current jobs crisis, the different parts of the business where this is impacting now and where it could hit in the future, the union’s response to the situation, and the forthcoming ‘Count Me In’ National Day of Action.

Coming back into main session again, Andy Kerr explained the issues around the growing dispute with BT.

Although he and his senior negotiating team want to find a solution with the company, Andy admitted that he’s “not optimistic of being able to find a way through” and added:  “We’ll have to be ready to ballot for industrial action.

“If we stick together as a collective, we can take this company one and we can get what we need.” 

The union’s ‘Count Me In’ campaign is “all about bringing members together” and building unity and confidence for the struggle ahead, he explained and told the audience about the Day of Action planned for this Thursday (1st October).

“There are some really good local activities happening – please contact your local BT branch and get involved,” he urged. “And anything our Royal Mail colleagues can do to help and support will be most appreciated.

“An injury to one CWU member is an injury to all.”

Speaking for the union’s Royal Mail membership, acting deputy general secretary postal Andy Furey said: “We send our fraternal greetings to all our BT comrades and we urge all our members to support you in full solidarity.

“Job security is of paramount importance and it’s truly shocking that such a profitable company is attacking members,” he continued.

“The attacks on workers are absolutely atrocious and we all need to be together on this.”

Bringing Day One to a successful close, Dave Ward said: “Thanks everybody for taking part.

“We’re trying to build a culture of engagement across the union and we particularly want to ask our postal branches to get behind what’s happening on 1st October”

“As the CWU, we stand up for all our members.”

  • The festival continues Tuesday and Wednesday. Further information and registration details can be found here.


Festival Fringe – CWU Retired Members 

Fighting to defend the state pensions ‘triple lock’ and combatting discrimination against older people in society were the key themes of the CWU Retired Members’ Festival Fringe discussion in the evening.

With our senior deputy general secretary Tony Kearns and Retired Members national committee member Norman Candy as speakers, and head of comms Chris Webb taking questions from the online audience, it was a lively session.

The UK’s fastest-growing demographic is the 85-and-over age group, according to Tony, who expressed his sadness that this is often portrayed negatively, or as a ‘crisis’. “It’s as if we’re supposed to think that people growing older is somehow a bad thing,” he commented.

“This leads to discrimination against older people in society with, for example, their use of the NHS and social care being suggested as a ‘burden’ on society.

“A challenge we all face is to change this perception, so that increasing longevity is seen as the positive trend that it is and not a negative,” said Tony.

Norman Candy spoke about the campaign to defend the state pensions ‘triple lock’ – a mechanism that guarantees that the state pension will increase each year by the greatest of the average rise in earnings, the consumer price index, or 2.5 per cent.

The triple lock was introduced by the Government in 2010, but has recently come under pressure from some urging ‘reform’ and, although it was confirmed last week that the system remains in place, fears remain among pensioners’ organisations that it may come under threat.

                       Norman Candy

“Our Triple Lock Defence campaign’s been going a few months now,” reported Norman, who said that there are regular triple lock campaign updates on the retired members’ Facebook page and “it’s become the most popular subject.”

Despite last week’s announcement, Norman explained that the “relentless” campaign against the triple lock “has not stopped” and it’s important to keep up our arguments in its favour.

“It’s rubbish to say it discriminates against younger people, for example, because they stand to make more out of it than when they get older. The triple lock actually helps them.

“We need to get other unions involved in the defence of the triple lock and we should make it part of our New Deal for Workers campaign as well,” he suggested.

Several questions from the virtual audience asked about the triple lock campaign and particularly the need to win active support from local Labour Party branches and contacting MPs of either party on the issue.

Other contributions referred to our own retired members’ organisation and how to become involved, the importance of remaining active in retirement, the facilities provided for retired members and the issue of achieving unity across the generations.

Television licence concessions were also an important topic for several contributors – as was the ongoing campaign to try to reverse the recent changes – while another subject discussed was party political preferences among older voters.

After responses and summing-up comments from both Tony and Norman, Chris thanked our speakers and everybody who participated, noting that an estimated 2,500 people had tuned in.

  • Today’s Festival Fringe goes to the other end of the age-range, as our CWU Young Workers take centre stage. (View at 7.30pm this evening here)